WHAT IS THE FUTURES LEAGUE?
The Futures League is summer collegiate baseball at its best, having been regarded as one of the most talented and competitive leagues in the country over its first decade of play.
Each franchise provides high quality, affordable entertainment, in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere. College players from around the country descend upon the New England region each summer to take part in a competitive league that closely mirrors the style of a minor league season, playing over 60 games from late May through August. More than 150 Futures League players have been drafted by Major League Baseball (MLB) organizations.
The league quickly gained in popularity in the community and is currently the highest-attended summer collegiate league in New England, having attracted more than two million fans to its games since being founded in 2011.
The ownership groups of both the Brockton Rox (Can-Am League) and the Lowell Spinners (Boston Red Sox affiliate) founded the Futures League in 2011 to provide another summer baseball opportunity specifically geared towards local talent. The league featured four teams -- the Nashua (N.H.) Silver Knights, Martha’s Vineyard (Mass.) Sharks, Torrington (Conn.) Titans, and Seacoast Mavericks (Portsmouth, N.H.) -- during its first year of existence.
The Futures League earned immediate credibility and success both on the field and at the gates in 2011, and the league expanded from four teams to nine after just one summer of play.
The Wachusett Dirt Dawgs (Leominster, Mass.), Pittsfield (Mass.) Suns, Old Orchard Beach (Maine) Raging Tide, North Shore Navigators (Lynn, Mass.), and the Brockton (Mass.) Rox were all added as expansion franchises in 2012. The Goldklang Group operates the Pittsfield franchise, as well as four other minor league teams in the Charleston (S.C.) RiverDogs, Fort Myers (Fla.) Miracle, Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Renegades, and St. Paul (Minn.) Saints.
After Nashua won the first two championships in league history and Martha’s Vineyard captured the 2013 title, Worcester, Mass., became the league’s 10th community in 2014. The Bravehearts raised the trophy at the end of their inaugural season playing at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field on the College of the Holy Cross campus.
Appearing in the championship series in its first seven years of existence, Worcester has won two sets of back-to-back titles in 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019. The Bristol (Conn.) Blues joined the fold for the first time in 2015 and went on to play for the title in two of their five Futures League seasons.
In 2017, the Futures League made national headlines by becoming the first baseball league to substitute traditional extra innings with a “Home Run Derby Wins It” tiebreaker. All games tied after 10 innings are decided by a home run derby, with each team getting three minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner of the derby wins the game!
The league also saw expansion to Westfield, Mass., with the Starfires in 2019 and acquired a former professional Atlantic League franchise, the New Britain (Conn.) Bees, in 2020.
The 2020 season was unlike any other as the Futures League navigated the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic to put on a 39-game season. Two of the league’s ballparks welcomed fans at a 25 percent reduced capacity, and the schedule was completed without interruptions and saw Nashua win its league-record fifth title in an exciting three-game series against Worcester.
As the only regular New England-based summer league in action in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Futures League drew significant attention from Major League Baseball scouts all season and had three regionally-televised games on New England Sports Network in August. The league also benefited from a streaming partnership with BlueFrame Technology, bringing all online game broadcasts under one umbrella for the first time ever with the creation of the FCBL Network.
Following the pandemic year, all eight Futures League ballparks returned to hosting fans in 2021 and welcomed more than 243,000 throughout a 68-game regular season. Losses due to Minor League Baseball contraction were the FCBL’s gain as the league expanded to two of the region's long-tenured professional markets, taking in the Vermont Lake Monsters and Norwich (Conn.) Sea Unicorns.
The Lake Monsters immediately led the league in attendance, welcoming more than 1,700 fans per game through the gates of Burlington's historic Centennial Field. They ultimately took home their first championship at any level since 1996, as well as Organization of the Year honors.
For a deeper look at the league's history on the field, check out the Futures League History & Records Book.
More than 150 league players and alumni have been drafted by MLB teams. Former Pittsfield Sun and Oklahoma star Cade Cavalli became the league’s highest-ever draft pick when he was selected 22nd overall by the Washington Nationals in 2020. The following year, the Futures League’s two-time Top Pro Prospect Sal Frelick set a new high mark for the league as he was drafted 15th by the Milwaukee Brewers, following a three-year career at Boston College.
Multiple draft-related firsts were reached in 2021 as the league produced a first-round pick in consecutive years and four over the first two rounds for the first time ever. In addition, the four names called within the first 60 picks and 13 through the first half of the 20-round draft are a new record.
Former Torrington pitcher Tyler Bashlor became the first league alumnus to debut in “The Show” when he appeared for the New York Mets in 2018. Boston College product Chris Shaw, the Futures League’s 2012 Top Pro Prospect for the Nashua Silver Knights, made his debut with the San Francisco Giants later that year, while Northeastern’s own Aaron Civale pitched for the Cleveland Indians in 2019 after being a part of Worcester’s inaugural team.
The league's list of eventual MLB players expanded with three debuts during the first month of the 2021 season. Former Martha's Vineyard Sharks and Clemson University pitcher Paul Campbell appeared for the Miami Marlins, preceding a pair of New England collegiate products to reach the highest level later in April. Within less than two weeks, infielders Zack Short and Jason Vosler also played their first MLB games with the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants, respectively. In the Futures, Short played for the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide and Short for the Brockton Rox.
As a result of its continued growth, the Futures League was selected to host a series of U.S. Collegiate National Team games during the summer of 2017. Team USA’s annual tour included an exhibition game against selected league prospects, while its Collegiate All-Star Series against Japan included games at Worcester, Nashua’s Historic Holman Stadium, and Brockton’s Campanelli Stadium, as well as in Lowell, Mass., and Hartford, Conn. That year's Team USA roster included former Futures League pitchers Tim Cate (UConn/Bristol) and Bryce Tucker (UCF/Brockton), who are both currently playing affiliated baseball.
WHO PLAYS IN THE FUTURES LEAGUE?
Any student-athlete who wishes to play in the Futures League must be currently enrolled in a NCAA- or NAIA-sanctioned college or university, be in good academic standing, and have at least one year of collegiate eligibility remaining.
While the vast majority of summer collegiate leagues require players to have completed their first year of eligibility, the Futures League allows top incoming freshmen to participate as well. The league has attracted additional talent from top New England programs like Boston College, UConn and Northeastern, as well as national powers like Vanderbilt and Virginia, as a result of this rule.
League bylaws mandate each team have a minimum 26-man roster, with at least 13 of those players selected from a New England-based college, be a New England native, or both. The league strongly suggests that student athletes have their college coach and/or a MLB scout recommend them to a team’s general manager.