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Spokane Indians receive invitation to become High-A affiliate of Colorado Rockies

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 10, 2020

Tri-City’s Reinaldo Ilarraza dives safely across home plate as Indians catcher David Garcia misses the tag Sept. 4, 2019, at Avista Stadium.  (COLIN MULVANY)
Tri-City’s Reinaldo Ilarraza dives safely across home plate as Indians catcher David Garcia misses the tag Sept. 4, 2019, at Avista Stadium. (COLIN MULVANY)

Wednesday was a big day across minor league baseball, as franchises across the country received their formal invitations from Major League Baseball to continue to participate as an affiliate in the reorganization of Minor League Baseball.

Twenty-nine of the 30 MLB teams made their invitations public during the day. The only one that didn’t was the Colorado Rockies, who were still deep in negotiation with one of their potential affiliates.

Now that’s been settled.

On Thursday, the Rockies extended invitations to their four potential affiliates, among them the Spokane Indians, who were offered a spot to play next season and beyond as a full-season (132 games) Class A-Advanced affiliate in a six-team Northwest League.

It will be the ninth MLB team the Indians have been affiliated with in their history.

The Rockies also extended invitations to Albuquerque (Triple-A), Hartford (Double-A) and Fresno (Low-A).

Once finalized, this system will commence for the 2021 season and continue through a minimum of the 2030 season, the Indians said in a news release.

“We are thrilled to have received an invitation to partner with the Colorado Rockies organization,” Spokane Indians Senior Vice President Otto Klein said in a statement. “Our goal is to continue to provide affordable family entertainment to the Inland Northwest. We’re looking forward to what the next chapter of Spokane Indians Baseball holds for our community, fans and organization.”

“The Colorado Rockies proudly invited the Spokane Indians to join with us in the development of our future Major League players,” said Zach Wilson, Colorado Rockies assistant general manager, player development, in a statement released by the Indians. “We are excited about this new partnership and look forward to bringing exciting baseball to Spokane and positively impacting the community.”

Teams that received an invitation letter still have to accept, at which point they will sign a Professional Development License that will govern the agreement between MLB and minor league teams. According to a Baseball America report, MLB does not expect that process to be completed until late January or February.

The licenses will spell out the details on travel, sponsorships, costs, facilities, length of terms and franchise valuations.

MLB is requiring major stadium upgrades for all affiliated teams, including: stadium lighting, clubhouse square footage, separate clubhouse facilities for female staffers/coaches, separate dining facilities, and enclosed/covered batting and pitching tunnels.

The delay on Wednesday was with the Fresno franchise. The Grizzlies are being asked to drop from Triple-A to Low-A, and many involved with the franchise were unhappy about the request.

According to the Fresno Bee, during a special meeting Thursday the Fresno City Council voted on new contracts with Grizzlies ownership and MLB, designed to keep minor league baseball in downtown Fresno for at least the next decade.

Details of the new agreement included a sizable reduction in rent for the team’s use of city-owned Chukchansi Park, and were unveiled by Mayor Lee Brand and Council President Miguel Arias in a Wednesday afternoon video conference.

As part of its reorganization of the minors, MLB has consolidated the number of affiliated minor league teams from 160 to 120. Each MLB team will have a single affiliate in Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A.

The short-season format, which the Indians have played since 1983, has been eliminated. Many of those teams, along with teams in full-season ball that were not invited to play as an affiliate, have been invited to participate in MLB “partner leagues” as wood bat summer leagues for amateur prospects or recently undrafted players.

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