Blue Rocks to join Nationals organization

WILMINGTON — The Wilmington Blue Rocks have decided their future is with the Washington Nationals organization.

The Class A minor league baseball team announced today that it plans to join the Nationals as part of Major League Baseball’s new player development structure.

The Blue Rocks are one of four clubs invited to join Washington. The Rochester Red Wings (Triple-A), Harrisburg Senators (Double-A) and Fredericksburg Nationals (Low-A) also received invitations.

Wilmington joins the Nationals after spending 26 of the last 28 seasons (1993–2004, 2007–20) as the Kansas City Royals Single-A Carolina League affiliate. They also spent two seasons (2005–06) as an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

“Clark Minker and I can’t wait to welcome the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals to Wilmington,” said Blue Rocks owner Dave Heller. “They are a team of great integrity which prides itself on doing the right things the right way. A championship community deserves a championship team, and from our first communications with Mark Lerner, Mike Rizzo and Mark Scialabba, we knew the Nationals were a first-class organization and a perfect fit for Wilmington. We couldn’t be more excited about the future.”

Minor League Baseball canceled its season last summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also undergoing a major restructuring.
The Nationals said they wanted to have four minor league teams close to Washington.

“Wilmington and Fredericksburg are easily accessible via the I-95 corridor,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “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. We are certain that each affiliate and the surrounding community will be assets to our player development and organization as a whole.”

The Red Wings spent the previous 18 seasons (2003–20) as the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. Prior to that 18-year run with the Twins, the Red Wings were affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles for 42 years (1961–2002) and the St. Louis Cardinals for 32 seasons (1929–60). They were originally founded in 1899.

The Harrisburg Senators will continue to serve as Washington’s Double-A affiliate as they have since 2005. Prior to baseball’s return to D.C. in 2005, the Senators spent 14 seasons (1991–2004) as the Double-A affiliate of the Montreal Expos.

The Fredericksburg Nationals return as one of Washington’s Single-A affiliates, extending the partnership that has been in place since 2005. Only 55 miles from Nationals Park, Washington utilized the new stadium facilities in Fredericksburg, Va., as its Alternate Training Site during the 2020 season.

Formerly known as the Potomac Nationals, this affiliate has been dedicated to helping develop eventual Major Leaguers and has been an asset in the rehabilitation process for injured players.