Two Class AAA International League clubs are adding a new layer to their rivalry, as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and the Syracuse Mets are launching the Interstate 81 series. It began last weekend at the RailRiders’ PNC Field, but has ties that go back decades thanks to their parent clubs.
The 2019 edition of the Interstate 81 Series is 19 games. The RailRiders–a Yankees affiliate–and the Mets will battle for the I-81 Championship Belt, which will be on display at the home park of whichever club hold the series lead. After two games on April 26 and 27, the series is even.
“We are excited to welcome the Mets back to the International League,” said Josh Olerud, RailRiders Team President and General Manager. “The Yankees and Mets rivalry is transcendent in the sport and we know the RailRiders will live up to the tradition of winning that the Bronx Bombers have established.”
PNC Field, home of the RailRiders, and NBT Bank Stadium, the home of the Mets, are separated by only 139 miles on Interstate 81, making a short trip possible for fans of the two New York City clubs.
“The Syracuse Mets are ecstatic to have this new rivalry begin,” stated Syracuse General Manager Jason Smorol. “We anticipate this series to be filled with great games and I know our Mets players are ready to help stop the RailRiders in their quest for a fifth straight International League playoff berth.”
On October 11, 2017, the New York Mets purchased the then-Syracuse Chiefs and operated the club for one season while it was a Washington Nationals affiliate. At the end of the 2018 campaign, the Mets shifted their Triple-A Player Development Contract to its new club as Washington went west to Fresno in the Pacific Coast League.
The Mets are, however, no stranger to the International League. In 1989 when the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons began play, the Mets top affiliate had long since been established in Norfolk, Virginia, as the Tidewater Tides (1969-2006). After a brief run with New Orleans in the PCL (2007-2008), the Mets returned to the IL for four years in Buffalo (2009-2012). And now after a six-year stay in Las Vegas, New York finally returned to the International League in Syracuse.
The rivalry between Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Syracuse dates back to the initial Red Barons campaign in 1989, which was captured 10 games to eight by Syracuse. Entering this season, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has a .556 winning percentage all-time against Syracuse.