Carolina, SAL clubs band together on new 12-member circuit
April 28, 2021
As the 2021 season approaches, MiLB.com introduces the 11 leagues created by the restructuring of Minor League Baseball across four levels of play. Below is a team-by-team introduction to the Low-A East, including affiliation, previous circuit and most recent championship. (Note: "Established" refers to the first year of a team's
A mashup of clubs from the Carolina and South Atlantic Leagues, the 12-team Low-A East consists of three divisions concentrated in four states: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Along with hosting two of the oldest ballparks in the Minors in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Kinston, North Carolina, the circuit also boasts some of the newest as the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers and Fredericksburg Nationals look forward to christening new stadiums this season. Beyond those, the Fayetteville franchise began play in 2019 in a brand-new stadium, while Augusta relocated across state lines and moved into a new park a year earlier.
In terms of affiliations, there are three changes within the Low-A East for 2021, and all are happening in the league's South Division. Charleston, previously with the Yankees, is once again a Rays affiliate -- the two were connected from 1997-2004 -- while Augusta moves from the Giants to the Braves and Columbia from the Mets to the Royals.
Affiliate: Baltimore Orioles (since 1997) Location: Salisbury, Maryland (121 miles to Camden Yards) Ballpark: Arthur W. Perdue Stadium (opened April 17, 1996) Established: 1996 (previous Salisbury clubs date back to 1922) Previous league: Class A South Atlantic League Last championship: 2000
Did you know? The Shorebirds are the only Minor League club whose geographical name is a tri-state portmanteau.
Affiliate: Washington Nationals (since 2020) Location: Fredericksburg, Virginia (56 miles to Nationals Park) Ballpark: New Fredericksburg Ballpark (opening in 2021) Established: 2020 Previous league: Class A Advanced Carolina League Last championship: N/A
Did you know? The FredNats are the first pro baseball team to ever play in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Affiliate: Cleveland Indians (since 2015) Location: Lynchburg, Virginia (479 miles from Progressive Field) Ballpark: Bank of the James Stadium (opened April 11, 1940) Established: 1970 (as the Twins; previous Lynchburg clubs date back to 1886) Previous league: Class A Advanced Carolina League Last championship: 2017
Did you know? The Hillcats share the 2017 Mills Cup with the Down East Wood Ducks -- the Finals were canceled due to Hurricane Irma that year. Lynchburg was the runner-up in 2016 after winning the Carolina League title outright in 2012.
SALEM RED SOX
Affiliate: Boston Red Sox (since 2009) Location: Salem, Virginia (677 miles from Fenway Park) Ballpark: Haley Toyota Field at Salem Memorial Ballpark (opened Aug. 7, 1995) Established: 1955 (as the Rebels) Previous league: Class A Advanced Carolina League Last championship: 2013
Did you know? Salem Memorial Ballpark offers fans a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains over the right-field wall.
Affiliate: Milwaukee Brewers (since 2017) Location: Zebulon, North Carolina (936 miles from Miller Park) Ballpark: Five County Stadium (opened July 3, 1991) Established: 1991 Previous league: Class A Advanced Carolina League Last championship: 2006
Did you know? The Columbus Astros (1970-1988) changed their name to the Mudcats prior to the 1989 season before relocating from Georgia to North Carolina two years later.
DOWN EAST WOOD DUCKS
Affiliate: Texas Rangers (since 2017) Location: Kinston, North Carolina (1,268 miles to Globe Life Field) Ballpark: Grainger Stadium (opened April 21, 1949) Established: 2017 (previous Kinston clubs date back to 1908) Previous league: Class A Advanced Carolina League Last championship: 2017 (co-champions with Lynchburg)
Did you know? The first player from a Grainger Stadium-based team to make it to the Majors was catcher Moose Morton, who played for the 1950 Kinston Eagles. Four years later, he struck out in his lone Major League at-bat as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
Affiliate: Houston Astros (since 2019) Location: Fayetteville, North Carolina (1,163 miles from Minute Maid Park) Ballpark: Segra Stadium (opened April 18, 2019) Established: 2019 (previous Fayetteville clubs, including the Cape Fear Crocs, date back to 1909) Previous league: Class A Advanced Carolina League Last championship: None
Did you know? In 2019, Woodpeckers slugger Seth Beer homered in all three of the Thirsty Thursday home games he played for Fayetteville.
KANNAPOLIS CANNON BALLERS
Affiliate: Chicago White Sox (since 2001) Location: Kannapolis, North Carolina (743 miles from Guaranteed Rate Field) Ballpark: Atrium Health Ballpark (opening in 2021) Established: 1995 (as the Piedmont Phillies) Previous league: Class A South Atlantic League Last championship: 2017
Did you know? Kannapolis changed its name to the Cannon Ballers following the 2019 season, a moniker referencing the industrial age entrepreneurship that, quite literally, put the city on the map. Located 25 miles northeast of Charlotte, Kannapolis is inextricably linked with James William Cannon and the company he founded in 1888, the Cannon Mills Company. (In fact, the city's name is a derivation of earlier, unofficial variants such as "Cannon-opolis.") Though it ceased operation in 2003, the Cannon Mills Company at its peak was the world's largest textile producer.
Affiliate: Atlanta Braves (since 2021) Location: North Augusta, South Carolina (163 miles to Truist Park) Ballpark: SRP Park (opened April 10, 2018) Established: 1988 (previous Augusta clubs date back to 1884) Previous league: Class A South Atlantic League Last championship: 2008
Affiliate: Tampa Bay Rays (since 2021) Location: Charleston, South Carolina (456 miles from Tropicana Field) Ballpark: Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park (opened April 6, 1997) Established: 1973 (as the Pirates; previous Charleston clubs date back to 1886) Previous league: Class A South Atlantic League Last championship: None
Did you know? Actor/comedian Bill Murray is a part-owner of the RiverDogs and listed in the staff directory as "Director of Fun."
Affiliate: Kansas City Royals (since 2021) Location: Columbia, South Carolina (993 miles from Kauffman Stadium) Ballpark: Segra Park (opened April 14, 2016) Established: 2016 (previous Columbia clubs date back to 1892) Previous league: Class A South Atlantic League Last championship: None
Did you know? The first win in Fireflies history -- on April 9, 2016 -- featured a combined no-hitter by Thomas McIlraith, Alex Palsha and Johnny Magliozzi.
MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS
Affiliate: Chicago Cubs (since 2015) Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (926 miles from Wrigley Field) Ballpark: TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark (opened April 12, 1999) Established: 1999 (previous Myrtle Beach clubs date back to 1987) Previous league: Class A Advanced Carolina League Last championship: 2016
Did you know? The seats in the TicketReturn.com seating bowl came from Fulton County Stadium, former home of the Atlanta Braves.