Minor League Merry-Go-Round

While the baseball regular season is over and the post season is nearly over, there are still lots of baseball decisions that must be made to be ready for the next season. Many fans think that once a team is eliminated from post season contention that the franchise goes into some sort of hibernation until pitchers and catchers report to spring training in mid-February. That is far from the truth as each team prepares every day to make their team better. I big piece of that puzzle is the minor league system. This is where players hone their skills waiting to be called up to the major leagues. Each franchise has several minor league affiliates where they assign players to help them progress. Most minor league affiliations are contracts between major league baseball clubs and minor league franchises. These contracts can be as short as a couple of years or in some cases they have lasted for decades. For the most part there are very few changes from year to year.

When the Diamondbacks began in 1998 they had minor league teams in Phoenix for a rookie league, The Lethbridge Black Diamonds were their short-season A team, the High Desert Mavericks were the high-A affiliate, the South Bend Silver Hawks were their class A affiliate, and the Tucson Sidewinders were the AAA team. Through the years we have seen a few changes but for the most part it has been pretty stable. The rookie team was disbanded and replaced by the Yakima Bears. The Lethbridge Black Diamondbacks became the Missoula Osprey. The Diamondbacks moved their high-A affiliate from High Desert to the Lancaster Jethawks. The Diamondbacks also added a AA affiliate first the El Paso Diablos but after that team was sold they moved to the Tennessee Smokies.

Over the past two weeks, there appears to be a lot of changes that will affect the Diamondbacks in 2007 and beyond. It started in the California League when the Diamondbacks lost their affiliation with Lancaster. Beginning in 2007 the Diamondbacks will use the Visalia Oaks for their Advanced A team. The Tennessee Smokies announced that in 2007 they would be the Chicago Cubs affiliate forcing the Diamondbacks to find an alternative. They have signed an agreement with the Mobile BayBears of the Southern League to be their AA affiliate beginning next season playing in Hank Aaron stadium. The Diamondbacks resigned with Tucson to retain the Sidewinders as their AAA team which is a natural fit for both teams. A lot has changed in the past 10 years but hopefully it will all be for the better in 2007.

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