Triple-A (or Class AAA) is the highest level of play in minor league baseball (MiLB) in the United States and Mexico. Until recently, Triple-A leagues fielded teams in Canada as well. Triple-A teams are typically located in the largest metropolitan areas that do not have Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, such as Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Las Vegas, Nevada; Louisville, Kentucky; and Norfolk, Virginia.
Triple-A teams' main purpose is to prepare players for the Major Leagues. ESPN wrote in 2010:1
Winning is nice, but secondary. It's much more important for a young prospect like outfielder Xavier Paul to get regular at-bats against lefties, or work on dropping down sacrifice bunts with a runner on first, than it is to take three of four from the Portland Beavers.1
Both young players and veterans play for Triple-A teams:
There are the young prospects speeding through the organization on the fastest treadmill, the guys who used to be young prospects who are in danger of topping out in Triple-A, the 30-somethings trying to get back to the majors after an injury or a rough patch, and the guys just playing a few more seasons because someone still wants them and they still want to.1
Players at this level who are on the 40-man roster of a major league team can be invited to come up to the major league club once the major league roster expands on September 1 (though teams will usually wait until their affiliates' playoff runs are over, should they qualify). For teams in contention for the post-season, these players create the flexibility needed to rest regular starters in late regular season games. For those not in contention, recalling such players gives them an opportunity to evaluate their future players under game conditions.
Teams at this level are divided into three leagues: the International League, the Pacific Coast League, and the MLB-independent Mexican League. The Mexican League fields teams throughout Mexico. The International League traditionally fielded teams in the Northeastern United States, and now fields teams in the Midwest and South as well. The Pacific Coast League originally fielded teams on the West Coast, but now fields teams throughout the western part of the United States. For much of the 20th century, the American Association, which consisted of teams in the Midwestern United States, was also at this level, but it disbanded in 1997 and its teams were divided among the IL and PCL. Each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams has an affiliation with one Triple-A team in the United States. However, Mexican Triple-A teams are not included in the organized farm team system.
- 1 Indicates current IL franchise's first year in current city. Some franchises have prior history in other cities, or had local predecessor franchises at other levels that shared their current name.
- 2 Many stadiums have lawn seating and thus capacity is approximate.
- 3 Will host the 2014 Triple-A All-Star Game
The Triple-A All-Star Game is a single game held between the two affiliated Triple-A leagues. Each league fields a team composed of the top stars in their respective leagues as voted on by fans, the media, and club field managers and general managers.
The event has taken place every year since 1988 when the first Triple-A All-Star Game was played in Buffalo, New York. Prior to 1998, a team of American League Triple-A All-Stars faced off against a team of National League Triple-A All-Stars. Traditionally, the game has taken place on the day after the mid-summer Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Since 2006, the annual Triple-A Baseball National Championship Game has been held to serve as a single championship game between the champions of the International League and Pacific Coast League to determine an overall champion of Triple-A baseball. It was originally held annually at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; beginning in 2011, it will be held in a different city every year.23
- Shelburne, Ramona (September 1, 2010). "John Lindsey waits for his chance". ESPN. Retrieved September 28, 2010.
- "Bricktown Showdown To Determine Triple-A Baseball Champion." Triple-A Baseball. Press Release. July 12, 2006.
- "Triple-A championship game renamed." Pacific Coast League. August 7, 2009. Retrieved on August 8, 2009.
- Triple-A Baseball official website
- International League official website
- Pacific Coast League official website