The independent Atlantic League will partner with Major League Baseball to act as a testing ground for experimental playing rules and equipment during the season, with a three-year agreement between the leagues announced Tuesday.
The agreement allows MLB to implement changes to Atlantic League playing rules in order to observe the effects of potential future rule changes and equipment in the majors.
According to Baseball America, those changes could include moving back the mound and using a computerized data system, called Trackman, to call balls and strikes, as well as to send in-depth data about every pitch and ball put into play in the Atlantic League.
Several proposed rule changes and experimental equipment will be announced in the coming weeks, according to a joint statement from MLB and the Atlantic League.
"We are excited to announce this new partnership with the Atlantic League," said Morgan Sword, MLB's senior vice president for league economics and operations. "We look forward to bringing some of the best ideas about the future of the game to a highly competitive environment."
"The Atlantic League prides itself on innovation," league president Rick White said. "In that spirit, our board of directors, led by chairman and founder Frank Boulton, enthusiastically and unanimously approved this forward-looking agreement."
In the past, MLB has used the Arizona Fall League as its testing ground. But the Atlantic League offers players with more experience. More than 40 percent of Atlantic League players have major league service time, and most have spent time in the minors.
Entering its 21st season, the Atlantic League has eight teams: High Point Rockers in High Point, North Carolina; Long Island Ducks in Central Islip, New York; New Britain Bees in New Britain, Connecticut; Somerset Patriots in Bridgewater, New Jersey; Lancaster Barnstormers in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in Waldorf, Maryland; Sugar Land Skeeters in Sugar Land, Texas; and York Revolution in York, Pennsylvania.