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MLB Reveals New Professional Development Leagues

February 12, 2021 - Double-A Central League (AA Central) - Tulsa Drillers News Release

One day after announcing a long-term affiliation with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Tulsa Drillers learned the structure of the league they will participate in during the 2021 season and future seasons. On Friday, Major League Baseball and Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. officially announced that the new look Professional Development Leagues will consist of 120 teams playing in 11 leagues at 4 levels of classification.

For the Drillers, the league will look very familiar with one exception. As anticipated, the Drillers will participate in a ten-team Double-A league with two separate divisions, paired with teams that have all been in the same league as Tulsa in past seasons.

The one big change involves the name. The historic Texas League, first founded in 1888, is no more. The league name has been discarded and will now be referred to as the Double-A Central League.

Tulsa will participate in the AA-Central League's North Division along with the Arkansas Travelers (Seattle Mariners), Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals), Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis Cardinals) and Wichita Wind Surge (Minnesota Twins).

The South Division will consist of the Amarillo Sod Poodles (Arizona Diamondbacks), Corpus Christi Hooks (Houston Astros), Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers), Midland RockHounds (Oakland Athletics) and San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres).

The league consists of the eight teams that participated in the Texas League in 2019 and adds San Antonio and Wichita.

San Antonio played as a Triple-A team for one season in 2019, but has had teams in the Texas League for more seasons than any other city, dating as far back as 1888.

Wichita had a team in the TL from 1983-2007, before the franchise moved to Northwest Arkansas. Both, San Antonio and Wichita were to play as Triple-A teams in 2020, before the COVID pandemic forced the cancellation of the season.

"We are excited to unveil this new model, which not only provides a pipeline to the Majors, but continues the Minor Leagues' tradition of entertaining millions of families in hundreds of communities," said Manfred. "In modernizing our Minor League system, we prioritized the qualities that make the Minor League such an integral part of our game while strengthening how we develop professional athletes on and off the field. We look forward to demonstrating the best of our game throughout local communities, supporting all those who are working hard to grow the sport, and sharing unrivaled technology and resources with minor league teams and players."

This announcement follows other recent announcements made by Major League Baseball detailing elements of its new comprehensive player development system. The new system is designed to better serve fans, players and Clubs throughout the United States and Canada; preserve high-level, sustainable baseball in nearly every community where the game has historically been played; and position the sport for growth in future years. In combination, the integrated player development system now includes 179 teams across 17 leagues in 43 states and four provinces. Including the Arizona and Gulf Coast Leagues, there are 209 teams across 19 leagues in 44 states and four provinces.

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