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Four Local Independent Baseball Teams Join New North American League

When the independent baseball Northern League splintered after last season, with four of its teams bolting to join the American Association, the Lake County (Illinois) Fielders, Joliet Jackhammers, Schaumburg Flyers, and Rockford Riverhawks were left hanging -- a four-team league wouldn't have worked very well.

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These four teams, along with teams from the Texas-based United League and the California-based Golden League, announced that they will play in 2011 as the North American League, with 16 to 20 teams based throughout the USA and Canada. It'll work this way: the three original leagues will play approximately 75% of their games within their region and 25% outside their region, followed by playoffs and a North American Championship Series. The league will play a regular season of somewhere between 92 and 100 games, likely starting in mid-May and ending around Labor Day. Independent teams aren't subject to having their players called up by major league organizations; these teams play at a level comparable to Double-A and their tickets are generally affordable, most selling for $10 or less.

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In addition to the four Chicago-area teams from the old Northern League, the NAL will include these cities that played in the Golden League in 2010: Calgary, Chico (California), Edmonton, Orange County (Fullerton, California), Maui (Wailuku), St. George (Utah), Tijuana (Mexico), Tucson, Victoria (British Columbia), and Yuma (Arizona), and these cities that competed in the United League in 2010, all from Texas: Amarillo, Coastal Bend (Robstown), Edinburg, Laredo, Rio Grande Valley (Harlingen) and San Angelo. More teams may be added before the 2011 season begins.