Minor league baseball season begins with new rules, structure

It’s been more than 19 months since the last official minor league baseball game – when the Sacramento RiverCats defeated the Columbus Clippers 4-0 to win the Triple-A National Championship.

That void finally comes to an end this week when a completely revamped version of minor league baseball makes its debut.

However, opening day 2021 will be without much of the pageantry and promotion that has made the minor leagues such a family-friendly way to enjoy the national pastime.

“There’s no question that there’s pent-up demand, and you can multiply that by 100 when you realize that most teams around the country are going to be opening under continuing restrictions of some sort,” Derek Sharrer, executive vice president and general manager of the St. Paul Saints, tells USA TODAY Sports.

While there will be changes taking place on the field, including new experimental rules, the biggest difference between now and 19 months ago will be in how the leagues are structured.

After the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the entire 2020 minor league season, Major League Baseball ended the professional baseball agreement that had governed the relationship between the majors and minors since 1901. Over the winter, MLB completed its takeover of the minors, eliminating 43 mostly lower-level franchises and reorganizing the different classes into a more standardized structure.

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