More positive news besides the young crop of players the Padres have developing down on the farm has arisen. It was announced a couple of days ago, that the organization had signed an extension with Class-A Lake Elsinore, and locked in an agreement with a new PDC in the Tri Cities of the shortened season of the Northwest League. Both are signed through the 2016 season of each league.
The Padres have had their California League Class-A affiliate at Lake Elsinore for now 13 years. It has been a partnership that has benefited both parties to say the least. For the Padres, it has provided them with a local farm team, that is only an hour’s drive away from San Diego, that is accessible to not only team officials and scouting department people, but also the fans.
They have and continue to have the convenience and the luxury of being able to strap into their cars and head one hour north to checkout the bright, young stars of the future for the Padres franchise, and follow their progress right from the start of their professional baseball careers. Having that connection to players so early in their development, can really keep people being loyal fans of not only those players, but to the team itself and the Padres on a bigger scale.
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Having a minor league affiliate that is close by like Lake Elsinore, for the Padres, is also key to developing and cultivating new fan excitement and commitment to being a Padres fan. Lets face it, San Diego is far from a big market in terms of baseball and being able to draw new interest from fans of all ages, especially younger ones, will be key moving ahead as the franchise continues to try and add to what is a loyal and passionate fan base, that is established within the city and surrounding areas. Being fans ourselves, we must start somewhere, and having the starting point be at Lake Elsinore is not a bad way to spark fandom in the Padres.
When it comes to the Tri Cities, this will mark a dramatic shift in terms of who they will be affiliated with. The organization, nicknamed the Dust Devils, had been in a long-term relationship and commitment with the Colorado Rockies since their inception in 2001. It is never always clear why minor league clubs decide to switch affiliations, maybe it is for more money or better prestige with a blueblood of the sport like the Cardinals, Yankees, Dodgers etc.
In any event, making such a change can involve a lot of moving parts and change in marketing strategy, how uniforms look and what players to expect that will shape its roster for the season. Many decisions must be made, but if they are made correctly, a minor league affiliate can enjoy the spoils of success.
The Padres actually have a brief history with this minor league affiliate. Back during the period of 1970-1972, San Diego had their short season operations located when the team was called the Tri-City Padres. From that crop of minor leaguers at the time, one would stand out and become an all-time great Padre. That player would be Randy Jones, who would go on and win the 1976 Cy Young Award, and who got his start with the minor league club before being called up and making his debut for the big club during the 1972 season.