KANSAS CITY, MO (February 12, 2021) – The Kansas City Royals are excited to announce that their Player Development Licenses (PDLs) have been signed by Omaha (AAA), Northwest Arkansas (AA), Quad Cities (A+) and Columbia, SC (A) to make up the club’s minor league affiliates for the 2021 season.
“The Kansas City Royals are proud to formally announce that we have partnered with four great organizations,” Royals Vice President/Assistant GM-Player Performance J.J. Picollo said. “We are excited to continue our long-standing relationships with the Omaha Storm Chasers and Northwest Arkansas Naturals, who have been phenomenal to work with over the years and we are equally excited to have two new partners, the Quad Cities River Bandits and the Columbia Fireflies. We have been engaged with Major League Baseball and the Commissioner’s Office throughout this process and have been working hard to partner with great people, great cities and great facilities. We have accomplished that by staying in Omaha and Northwest Arkansas and forming a partnership with Quad Cities and Columbia. Our players will be able to maximize their personal development in this new alignment and we are anxious to engage in this new venture with MLB as Minor League Baseball takes on a new look.”
The Omaha and Kansas City franchises have joined forces since both began play in 1969, forming the longest active Triple-A affiliation in Minor League Baseball and third-longest affiliation overall. The Omaha franchise, which has carried the Storm Chasers nickname since 2011, has played more than 7,000 games as the Royals’ Triple-A affiliate, winning 16 division titles, seven league championships and three Triple-A championships (1990, 2013, 2014).
“Continuity in the face of a major industry change is something we are extremely proud of in our relationship with the Kansas City Royals,” Omaha Storm Chasers Team President Martie Cordero said. “While our agreement with the Royals is not perpetual, we each operate in a way that demonstrates permanence. Our organization cannot wait to welcome the next wave of future Royals big leaguers to Warner Park in 2021 and beyond.”
Northwest Arkansas resumes its affiliation with the Royals, having become Kansas City’s Double-A affiliate prior to the 2008 season, when they relocated from Wichita, Kan. Prior to that, the Wichita Wranglers served as the Royals’ Double-A affiliate from 1995-2007. Based in Springdale, Ark., the Naturals have reached the postseason seven times in 12 seasons, collected four division titles (2009, 2010, 2015, 2016) and one league championship in 2010.
“We are thrilled to continue our strong partnership with the Kansas City Royals,” Northwest Arkansas Naturals General Manager Justin Cole said. “Through our affiliation with the Royals, we have been able to showcase many talented players on their way to Kansas City, while also providing great family entertainment to baseball fans throughout Northwest Arkansas.”
Quad Cities will begin its partnership with the Royals in 2021, marking their first season at the Class A-Advanced level. Quad Cities has been affiliated with six other franchises since joining the Midwest League in 1960 and has won seven league titles (1968, 1971, 1979, 1990, 2011 and 2017) in that time. The River Bandits anchor the Quad Cities sports market, playing their home games at Modern Woodman Park in Davenport, Iowa.
“Moving up to Advanced-A and securing a long-term affiliation with the Kansas City Royals will be the best thing to happen to baseball in Quad Cities since the renovation of Modern Woodman Park,” Quad Cities River Bandits owner Dave Heller said. “Having Advanced-A baseball in the Quad Cities means the players who come through our ballpark are markedly more likely to reach the Major Leagues. It’s a higher level of play, with better pitchers and better hitters and more experienced players. And there is no better organization in baseball than the Kansas City Royals, no one with whom we would rather affiliate. Dayton Moore, J.J. Picollo, Scott Sharp – they are the best. They do things the right way, treat people the right way. And they have a proven record building a World Series champion. All of us in the Quad Cities who love baseball are extremely grateful to Senators Grassley and Ernst for all of their hard work. We can’t wait to welcome everyone in the Royals organization to Quad Cities.”
Columbia (S.C.) will begin its first season as a Class A affiliate with the Royals. The Columbia franchise had partnered with the New York Mets for more than 25 seasons as the Columbia Mets (1983-92), the Capital City Bombers (1993-2004) and the Fireflies (2016-2020). In 2014, the Columbia Fireflies partnered with the City of Columbia and Hughes Development to construct Segra Park, which was named Baseball Digest “Ballpark of the Decade”. The Fireflies also received Baseball Digest’s Best New Branding and Logo Award in 2016.
“It is with great pride that we have been selected to be part of the Kansas City Royals family,” Columbia Fireflies Team President John Katz said. “On behalf of the entire organization, we’d like to thank Royals GM Dayton Moore, VP/Assistant GM J.J. Picollo for entrusting us to be part of the process of helping to build the future stars of the Royals right here in Columbia. Segra Park is a first-class facility, and we’re excited to have a partner with such a rich pedigree in player development.”