BRIDGEWATER, NJ – Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball has been named its first “Partner League.”

“We are excited to extend our relationship with the Atlantic League, which provides us a unique means to push the sport forward,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president, Baseball Economics & Operations.

The Somerset Patriots are a founding member and the longest-tenured franchise in the Atlantic League. They have won the most championships in league history (six) and have lead the ALPB in both total and average attendance in each of the last three seasons.

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“The announcement about MLB designating the Atlantic League as its first Partner League is an extraordinary step for the future of the game,” said Somerset Patriots Chairman Emeritus Steve Kalafer. “We have worked for over two decades to provide baseball fans and our community with very best in everything that we do. This agreement continues to solidify the reputation that the Atlantic League and the Somerset Patriots have throughout baseball.”

As a Partner League of Major League Baseball, ALPB will meet regularly with MLB to discuss joint marketing and promotional opportunities, including the leagues’ shared goal of providing baseball to communities throughout the United States. This designation expands the current agreement between the leagues which permits MLB to test experimental playing rules and equipment during Atlantic League games.  The existing agreement has also been extended through the 2023 season.

“Our historic agreement with MLB has helped bring unprecedented exposure to the Atlantic League and the Somerset Patriots,” said Jonathan Kalafer, Somerset Patriots co-chairman. “We believe in Commissioner Manfred’s vision of all levels of baseball working together to help grow the sport we all love and respect.”

The Somerset Patriots have helped lead the way in this groundbreaking partnership with Major League Baseball both through on-field success and off-the-field collaboration.

“The Atlantic League clubs and players have been great partners to us as we jointly test ways to make our game even more interesting and engaging to fans,” added Sword.

During the 2019 season, MLB and ALPB partnered to successfully test the Automated Ball-Strike System (ABS), which used radar tracking technology to assist home plate umpires in calling balls and strikes.  In addition, the Atlantic League tested rules limiting defensive shifting, mound visits, shortening inning breaks, and larger bases.

“It was great seeing the partnership brought to life at the ballpark during the 2019 season,” said Josh Kalafer, Somerset Patriots co-chairman. “Our fans and the entire world were given a glimpse of some of the rules and technological advances coming their way to help usher in some potential improvements to America’s pastime.”

The Somerset Patriots play at the award-winning TD Bank Ballpark, where they have welcomed in over 7,500,000 fans since opening in June of 1999. Additionally, the team has earned over 1,500 regular season wins, 14 playoff appearances and was managed by New York Yankees great, World Series champion and Cy Young Award winner Sparky Lyle from 1998 through 2012. Lyle remains with the team, serving as its manager emeritus. Former Yankees and San Diego Padres pitcher Brett Jodie has served as manager since 2013.

“As an organization, we could not be prouder of our role in fostering this partnership with MLB,” said Patrick McVerry, Somerset Patriots president/general manager. “We know how hard our ownership and front office staff works, as well as each ALPB member clubs’ management, to represent the Atlantic League to the best of our abilities every day.”

In addition to the Patriots, the 8-team league includes the Long Island Ducks; Lancaster Barnstormers; York Revolution; Southern Maryland Blue Crabs; Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters, the High Point (NC) Rockers, and the yet-to-be named franchise that will play in a stadium now under construction in Gastonia, NC.

Somerset’s leadership role within the league helped first establish the initial partnership with Major League Baseball that has now expanded into its "Partner League" designation.

“The Atlantic League is inspired by the evolution of its relationship with Major League Baseball and thrilled to be named their first Partner League,” said Rick White, ALPB president. “We value MLB’s confidence in ALPB and look forward to advancing our sport together.” 

The Atlantic League has sent more than 950 players to MLB organizations while drawing more than 42 million fans to its affordable, family-friendly ballparks throughout its 23-year history. For more information, please visit www.AtlanticLeague.com.