Wilmington to Washington connection increases with new minor league baseball alignment

(Courtesy of Wilmington Blue Rocks)

(Courtesy of Wilmington Blue Rocks)

Delaware’s connection to Washington, D.C., is growing stronger. Now, in addition to having Joe Biden residing at the White House, the state’s only minor league baseball team is now affiliated with the Washington Nationals.

Since the team’s inception in 1993, the Wilmington Blue Rocks have mainly been affiliated with the Kansas City Royals. In 2005 and 2006, the team was part of the Boston Red Sox farm system before returning to the Royals.

“They are a team of great integrity which prides itself on doing the right things the right way,” said Rocks owner Dave Heller of the Nats. “We knew the Nationals were a first-class organization and a perfect fit for Wilmington. We couldn’t be more excited about the future.”

The Rocks will remain at the High-A level, the third rung down from the majors.

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(Courtesy of Wilmington Blue Rocks)

Wilmington’s proximity to Washington could help fans stay better connected to players as they move up the ranks. “Our four affiliates and their proximity to Washington, D.C., will be critical not only to player development and roster construction, but also to our injury-rehabilitation process,” said Mike Rizzo, president of baseball operations and Nats general manager. ”We are certain that each affiliate, and the surrounding community, will be assets to our player development and organization as a whole.”

The Rocks captured the league championship in 2019, a title they’ve held on to for the past year since the pandemic canceled the 2020 season.

“As someone who travels from Wilmington to Washington almost every day, I couldn’t be happier about this new partnership along the Northeast Corridor,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware.

As Delaware’s governor in the 1990s, Carper played a big role in the development of the Wilmington Riverfront where the Blue Rocks stadium is located. “It’s no secret that, for years now, I’ve worked to make sure the Wilmington Blue Rocks, and their home on Wilmington’s Riverfront, was successful. Teaming up with the Nationals, who are just a short drive down 95, is a home run in my book.”

Though Carper is a big baseball fan, he’s a longtime supporter of the Detroit Tigers. That means he may not fully understand how Blue Rocks fans, who also root for the Philadelphia Phillies, could feel hesitant about Wilmington’s new connection to the Phillies’ rival Nats.

The Nats will continue their connection with the Harrisburg Senators as their Double-A affiliate.

Wilmington’s new affiliation is part of Minor League Baseball’s major overhaul following the expiration of the Professional Baseball Agreement between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball. That deal expired at the end of September.

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The Wilmington ballpark’s exterior and parking lot area has been busy over the past few months as the Riverfront played host to the Democratic National Convention over the summer, and as the world’s media and thousands of Joe Biden supporters gathered to celebrate Biden’s election victory in November.

Earlier in the year, a makeshift movie screen was set up on the Rocks’ field for fans to come in and watch films. The adjacent parking lot has also been transformed into a COVID-19 testing area.

In 2016, the Rocks’ Frawley Stadium got a number of upgrades including all-new seating. At the time, Heller outlined a broader vision for the ballpark, including seating along the outfield fence and more entertainment amenities for fans to enjoy.

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