This season saw the Rangers enter the MiLB world with the ownership of the Down East Wood Ducks (High A; Carolina League), one of two new franchises added in 2o17 to the Carolina League. The Crawdads were owned by a group led by Don Beaver, owner of other MiLB teams, including the Charlotte Knights (Class AAA; International League). Terms of the sale were not released.
Of immediate interest to Crawdads fans: the future of the team. Stability seems to be the name of the game here. Mark Seaman, the Crawdads GM since October 2007, will remain in that role. Neil Leibman, who joined the Rangers ownership group in 2010 after an MiLB run that included stakes in the Boise Hawks (Short Season A; Northwest League), Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League) and Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Short Season A; NY-Penn League), will be president of the Crawdads. He’s currently chairman of the Texas Rangers Ownership Committee.
“The Texas Rangers are proud and honored to make this announcement today,” Leibman said via press release. “We are acquiring a franchise that has thrived under the stewardship of Don Beaver and his ownership for the last quarter century, and we are committed to continuing that legacy. We pledge to be a great community partner with the City of Hickory, and we look forward to a long and successful relationship.”
“On behalf of the ownership group, we would like to thank the fans for 25 years of tremendous support,” said now-former majority owner Don Beaver. “I’ve truly enjoyed owning the team alongside Charles Young and of course, my brother Luther. Without the great partnership with the city of Hickory and the vision of George Murphy and the stadium committee, Crawdads baseball wouldn’t have become a reality.
“We hate to sell the team but it’s the right thing to do to ensure that baseball stays in Hickory. The Rangers are a first-class organization that we’ve been able to experience first-hand the last nine years. The future of the team couldn’t be in more capable hands.”
Beaver initially purchased the Gastonia Rangers and moved the team to Hickory where the Crawdads made their debut in 1993 as an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox before switching to the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1999-2008.
A purchase like this really isn’t a financial investment as much as an insurance policy — the Rangers will have a spot in the Sally League as long as they own the Crawdads. The Rangers have not always had the best situation when it came to Class A affiliates, including a 2003-2008 stint with the Clinton LunberKings (Low A; Midwest League).
This is the latest in the wave of MLB teams buying key affiliates. The New York Mets announced a purchase of the Syracuse Chiefs (Class AAA; International League) this week. Recently the purchase of the Carolina Mudcats (High A; Carolina League) by the Milwaukee Brewers was announced (with a potential second MiLB purchase by the Brewers coming down the pike), and more similar purchases may be in the works (though, we must note, one MLB team is seeking to downsize its MiLB holdings).