HOUSTON -- The Astros finalized their plans for their Minor League clubs next season, extending an invitation to the Asheville Tourists to be their Class A Advanced affiliate. The Tourists, when they accept the offer, would join Triple-A Sugar Land, Double-A Corpus Christi and Class A Fayetteville as the club’s four Minor League affiliates beginning in 2021.
The Astros announced last month they were moving their Triple-A club to the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, having purchased a majority stake in the former independent team. The gives the Astros ownership of three of its four full-season affiliates: Sugar Land, Corpus Christi and Fayetteville.
“The Astros are very excited about partnering with the Tourists franchise and setting up roots in the city of Asheville,” Astros general manager James Click said in a statement. “Asheville is one of the most historic franchises in all of Minor League Baseball, and we look forward to adding to that history.”
Professional baseball has been played in Asheville, N.C., since the 1800s, with the Tourists name dating back to 1915. The Tourists spent the past 26 years as the Class A affiliate of the Rockies (1994-2020) and previously served as the Astros’ Class A affiliate twice (1967 and 1982-93), with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio playing there in 1987.
“We are thrilled to receive the invitation from the Houston Astros and to partner with them as part of their organization,” Tourists owner and president Brian DeWine said in a statement. “Baseball’s return to Asheville this spring will give us a season we will never forget.”
With Constellation Field in Sugar Land and Minute Maid Park being only 23 miles apart, the Astros will be able to shuffle players between Triple-A and the Major Leagues with ease. The proximity provides easier communication between the Triple-A and Major League staff, the ability to coordinate on players’ training plans as they bounce between the Major Leagues and Minor Leagues and the ability for the Astros' front office to check in regularly on the Triple-A players and staff.
What’s more, Major League players on rehab assignments at Triple-A could get their treatment and work out with the big league club in the afternoon and drive to Sugar Land for a night game. Meanwhile, Astros fans would be able to make the short drive to check out the team’s incoming prospects reaching Triple-A.
The Astros will be returning to Corpus Christi for their 16th consecutive season in 2021, dating back to the club’s move to the Texas League in 2005. The home of the Hooks, Whataburger Field, which also opened in 2005, underwent a renovation in the 2019-20 offseason, which improved the stadium's netting, batting cages, weight room and clubhouse.
The Astros have operated the Fayetteville franchise since the 2017 season, originally joining the Carolina League as an expansion team. The team operated as the Buies Creek Astros for two seasons (2017-18) before moving to their permanent home in Fayetteville, N.C., and rebranding as the Fayetteville Woodpeckers. The Woodpeckers play at Segra Stadium, which opened in 2019.