Two more player development contracts to announce: Seattle Mariners/Bakersfield Blaze (High Class A; California League) and San Diego Padres/Tri-City Dust Devils (short season A; Northwest League), both through 2016.
The Seattle/Bakersfield announcement was not a surprise. It was increasingly apparent that whatever team didn’t affiliate with the Carolina Mudcats — either the Texas Rangers or the Atlanta Braves — would end up going to the High Desert Mavericks (High Class A; California League), leaving Seattle with Bakersfield either way. And with talk of a new ballpark for the Blaze in Salinas as soon as 2016, talking a shot with Bakersfield and Sam Lynn Ballpark in 2015 seemed worth a gamble.
“Bakersfield has an incredibly rich baseball history,” said Mariners Director of Player Development Chris Gwynn in a press release. “Pedro Martinez played here. Mike Piazza played here. The city of Bakersfield and Sam Lynn Ballpark have produced top baseball talent for almost eight decades.
“The Mariners are extremely excited about this new partnership. Bakersfield gives us a great opportunity to evaluate our players, and help get our young athletes ready for the next level. We believe this transition should create more confidence among our players and the results will follow.”
“We are beyond thrilled to partner with the Seattle Mariners,” said Blaze General Manager Elizabeth Martin. “The Mariners consistently produce winning minor league clubs, which our fans will enjoy on a nightly basis. I knew, in my gut, that the Mariners would be the right fit, and the pieces fell into place in just a matter of days.”
This will be the Mariners’ second stint as a Major League affiliate in Bakersfield, previously partnering in 1982-83.
In Pasco, the Padres will launch a second stint as an MLB affiliate in Tri-City. The Tri-City Padres played in the Northwest League from 1970 to 1972 and won a championship in 1971.
“Tri-City has a long history as a Short-Season A affiliate, helping players establish their professional footing and prepare for the next step in their careers,” said Padres Executive Vice President/General Manager A.J. Preller. “The Padres are excited to return to the Tri-Cities and we look forward to building a great relationship with the Dust Devils’ ownership, management, and fans.”
“We’re very excited to be partnering with the Padres,” said Dust Devils President Brent Miles. “The Dust Devils will continue to be committed to providing affordable family entertainment, and we’re thrilled to have the Padres as a part of the Dust Devils family.”
The Padres had been affiliated with the Eugene Emeralds since 2001. Prior to that, the Padres had Northwest League affiliates in Spokane (1983-1994, including four consecutive championships in 1987-1990) and Walla Walla (1972-1982, with a championship in 1976).
“While we appreciate the great relationship we’ve had with Eugene, we are excited and look forward to a long relationship with Tri-City,” said Padres Vice President/Player Development Randy Smith.
The Dust Devils were affiliated with the Colorado Rockies since the Dust Devils’ founding in 2001. “The Rockies were a great partner in the Tri-Cities for 14 years and we wish them nothing but the best in the future,” Miles said. The Boise Hawks announced Friday that they will be the Rockies’ new short-season A affiliate.
The Dust Devils/Padres announcement closes official word on short-season A affiliations. The Blaze/Mariners announcement leaves two unaffiliated teams at High Class A: High Desert/Carolina and Texas/Atlanta. Class AAA, Class AA and rookie affiliations are all set for 2015-2016; the only other level with open affiliations is Low Class A, where the Oakland A’s and Arizona Diamondbacks will choose between the Kane County Cougars and Beloit Snappers. Oakland and Beloit have been affiliated the past two years.
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