There has been plenty of uncertainty across minor league baseball over the past 18 months. Much of that uncertainty – for now, anyway – has finally been put to rest.
On Friday, Major League Baseball announced all of the 120 minor league organizations invited to be part of the restructured minor leagues – under the MLB umbrella – accepted and signed a professional development license in order to remain an MLB affiliate.
The Spokane Indians baseball club announced it officially signed a PDL to become a High-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
“It’s kind of nice to finally have something to say and talk about with everyone, so that part is definitely exciting,” Spokane Indians president Chris Duff said.
Otto Klein, senior vice president of the club, spoke about the significance of the agreement.
“This is the most historic change that we will see in our lifetime with minor league baseball,” he said. “This is a big one.”
The 10-year agreement secures Spokane as a Rockies affiliate as part of MLB’s newly formed Player Development System.
“We are ecstatic to officially partner with the Colorado Rockies organization and bring long-season baseball back to the Inland Northwest,” Klein said. “Our priority remains providing affordable family entertainment and high-quality baseball for fans in our region. We look forward to the next decade as partners with the Rockies. “
“The Colorado Rockies organization is thrilled to call Spokane home for our High-A Minor League club,” said Zach Wilson, Colorado Rockies assistant general manager for player development and farm director. “We are excited to bring talented players and tremendous baseball to the region as well as positively impacting the community.”
A schedule for the 2021 season is still being developed by MLB and is expected to be announced in the near future. A Baseball America report said opening day for the lower minors is expected to be around May 4.
“I think we’re anticipating the schedule very soon, within a week or so is what we’ve been hearing, and we look forward to receiving the schedule,” Klein said.
The Rockies should announce the Indians’ field staff soon after schedules are released.
Under this new Player Development System, High-A teams are projected to play 132 games, meaning 66 home games at Avista Stadium. In 2021, that number will probably be fewer – but not by too much.
MLB spring training is scheduled to start on time, but because of COVID-19 protocols, minor league camp will be held after the big league clubs head north, unlike previous years when camps would run concurrently. That will delay the start of the minor league season by several weeks.
It’s anticipated the Indians’ season will run roughly 120 games in 2021.
The Indians will play in the newly renamed “High-A West” league, along with five other former Northwest League teams that signed PDLs, including Tri-Cities, Vancouver, Everett, Eugene and Hillsboro.
When fans will be able to return to Avista Stadium is still up in the air due to COVID-19 restrictions. Klein stressed the club was excited the region met the conditions to move into Phase 2 on Thursday.
“Hopefully, we can keep this going and so that come May, we’re going to be able to allow as many people as they’ll allow us into a ballpark,” he said.
“We want to open the doors is as fast as anybody, right?” Klein added. “We’re going work with local health department and state officials and all that to make sure that everything is safe.”
This partnership with the Rockies marks the first time Spokane has been affiliated with Colorado, and the ninth MLB affiliation in team history.
For the previous 18 seasons, the Indians have been the short-season A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
“We are excited to unveil this new model, which not only provides a pipeline to the Majors, but continues the Minor Leagues’ tradition of entertaining millions of families in hundreds of communities,” Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred Jr. said in a statement. “In modernizing our Minor League system, we prioritized the qualities that make the Minor Leagues such an integral part of our game while strengthening how we develop professional athletes on and off the field.
“We look forward to demonstrating the best of our game throughout local communities, supporting all those who are working hard to grow the sport, and sharing unrivaled technology and resources with Minor League teams and players.”
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