The Bull Oceanic Winter League gets underway soon, an opportunity for young, developing baseball players to get some more playing time and bring their skill level up before Spring Training and the 2018 regular season, with roster selection for the teams taking place on December 9th.
Players must be at AA-level or below to qualify for a roster spot, and the BOWL teams rosters are each constituted from players from two Bull League organizations.
The managers of the BOWL teams will be General Managers from the various Bull League franchises, given them an opportunity to manage baseball games during the offseason and preview some of the up and coming talent, keeping their front-office skills enhanced and giving them a chance to “scout” the talent within their own organization, and in others.
The BOWL was introduced for 2018 as a way of continuing the defunct Bull Oceanic League, which was an international independent league of 16 teams based in Australia and New Zealand. The players were transportable between the that league and the Bull League, for a buyout fee, but many free agents left the Bull League to play in the BOL during its first season, depleting the available stock for Bull League teams and causing a shortage of starting pitchers in particular.
In 2017, it was decided to end the BOL and introduce a series of offseason tournaments and developmental baseball. The first offseason tournament was the World Cup of Baseball, or WCB, open to the major-level and AAA-level players in the Bull League. The other was the winter developmental BOWL.
The BOWL is organized into two divisions, one based in Africa, the other based in the Pacific. The teams, and their Bull League affiliations, include:
- Algiers Berbers (Battle Creek, Nevada)
- Cairo Pharaohs (Calgary, New York)
- Cape Town Nuggets (Anchorage, Kingston)
- Gold Coast Stars (Boston, California)
- Lagos Millionaires (Montreal, Norfolk)
- Melbourne Gold Rush (Arizona, Detroit)
- Newcastle Nuclears (Dallas, Ohio)
- Sydney Surfers (Jacksonville, Toronto)
- Tunis Freemen (Chicago, Seattle)
- Wellington Diggers (Denver, Rimouski)
Each team’s players will be drawn from one AEL team and one LL team, and the manager of the team could be the GM of either of these two.
Rosters go up to 30 players, and in an interesting twist, the designated-hitter is not used in the BOWL, to give teams a chance to identify pitchers who may be deemed better off transitioning to a full-time hitter and position player.
The schedule runs for 36 games starting on January 8 and finishing February 18, followed by a two-round playoff involving the division leaders, and a wildcard (the second-place team in each division). The playoffs are decided in single-game sudden-death elimination rounds.