Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that it has named the Atlantic League, a formerly independent baseball league that includes the Long Island Ducks, its first "partner league." As per the agreement, the two leagues will meet regularly to discuss joint marketing and promotional opportunities, including the "leagues' shared goal of providing baseball to communities throughout the United States," a news release said.
The designation also extends the current agreement between the leagues, which permits MLB to test experimental playing rules and equipment during Atlantic League games, through the 2023 season, the release said.
During the 2019 season, the first of the rules agreement between the leagues, they tested the Automated Ball-Strike System in the second half, which used radar tracking technology to assist plate umpires in calling balls and strikes and generally drew mixed reviews from players and coaches.
Other rules tested included a ban on mound visits by players or coaches other than for pitching changes or medical issues; a ban on the defensive shift; requiring a pitcher to step off the rubber in order to attempt a pickoff; allowing batters to "steal" first base on any pitch not caught in flight; and making the check-swing rule more "batter friendly."
Two experimental rules — a three-batter minimum for all pitchers, unless the end of an inning is reached, and starting extra innings with a runner on second base — were adopted by MLB for their 60-game shortened season. The three-batter minimum was set to take effect in the regularly scheduled 162-game MLB season that was altered by the COVID-19 pandemic.