ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are planning for Round Rock to return as their Triple-A affiliate, the club announced on Wednesday. The move means a reunion between the organization and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, who was their club president from 2008-13.
The Rangers have invited Round Rock, Double-A Frisco, Class A Advanced Hickory and Class A Down East to be their four affiliates under Major League Baseball’s new player development structure, effective for the 2021 season. Hickory and Down East will switch classifications.
“The Texas Rangers are pleased to invite these four outstanding franchises to be a part of our Minor League system going forward,” said Rangers managing partner Ray Davis. “We look forward to the opportunity of returning to Central Texas, where we previously had a great eight-year partnership with the Round Rock Express. The Rangers have enjoyed strong relationships with our Frisco, Hickory and Down East affiliates for a number of years, and those will continue as we go forward.”
Ryan, who pitched for the Rangers from 1989-93, is a partner in Ryan-Sanders Baseball, which owns the Round Rock Express. The Express were the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate from 2011-18, before switching back to the Astros, who they had also been with from '00-10. Texas' Triple-A affiliate for the past two seasons was in Nashville, Tenn.
"The Round Rock Express is excited about the opportunity to reunite with the Texas Rangers organization as their Triple-A affiliate," Express president Chris Almendarez said in a statement. "We have an outstanding relationship with the Rangers' ownership and front office after spending eight great seasons as the team’s top affiliate from 2011-2018. We are honored that our organization, facility and community were recognized by Major League Baseball as one of the top 30 Triple-A markets. We are eager to receive and review the updated governing documents from MLB to bring this opportunity one step closer to reality."
The Rangers have been affiliated with the Frisco RoughRiders since 2003. The RoughRiders play at Dr Pepper Ballpark, directly north of Dallas and 35 miles away from Globe Life Field in Arlington.
The Rangers own both the Hickory Crawdads and the Down East Wood Ducks, giving them a solid base in the Carolina and South Atlantic Leagues. Down East, located in Kinston (N.C.), became Texas' Class A Advanced team in 2017, while Hickory (N.C) has been the Rangers' Class A team since '09.
MLB is expected to announce the complete league structures for the new player development system early in 2021.