The TinCaps are moving up a level.
The Fort Wayne minor league baseball franchise officially announced an agreement with the San Diego Padres to become the MLB club's High-A affiliate today, accepting an invitation the Padres had extended in December.
The Fort Wayne franchise has been a Low-A affiliate since it moved to the Summit City in 1993. The new designation means the team would be assigned more experienced players who are a step closer to the major leagues.
“This is an incredibly exciting day for the TinCaps,” team president Mike Nutter said in a statement. “We’re very proud to be a part of the Padres’ system and continue to do what we do best — create a best-in-class fan experience, develop big-league ballplayers, grow our business, and support our community. Our fans can rest assured that the future of baseball in Fort Wayne is strong.”
The TinCaps will likely remain part of the Midwest League. Many of the league's franchises were also invited to the High-A level by their parent clubs and the circuit will be at the High-A level going forward. It will probably contract from 16 teams to 12 after the Clinton LumberKings, Burlington Bees and Kane County Cougars were not extended invitations into affiliated baseball under the new contract between MLB and MiLB. The Lake County Captains were given an invitation and will move to the newly-formed Mid-Atlantic League.
The new agreement between the majors and the minors shrinks the size of the minor leagues from 160 teams to 120, with each of the 30 MLB clubs having one affiliate at Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A. With the TinCaps moving to High-A, the Padres' Low-A affiliate will be the Lake Elsinore Storm, the former High-A affiliate. El Paso will remain as the Triple-A team and San Antonio at the Double-A level.
“We’ve been engaged with Major League Baseball and the Padres to forge a relationship that preserves the history and tradition of the minors, while creating a modern player development system that will benefit everyone — fans, players, teams, and our community — for decades to come,” Nutter said in the statement.
The new MLB-MiLB agreement runs through 2030.
"We are excited to unveil this new model, which not only provides a pipeline to the Majors, but continues the Minor Leagues’ tradition of entertaining millions of families in hundreds of communities," MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. "In modernizing our Minor League system, we prioritized the qualities that make the Minor Leagues such an integral part of our game while strengthening how we develop professional athletes on and off the field."
Under the new agreement, the TinCaps will have access to MLB’s partnerships, tools, technology and content.
The TinCaps plan to release their 2021 schedule in the coming weeks. The 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re approaching the 2021 season with extreme care and consideration,” Nutter said. “Every event at Parkview Field will put the health and safety of our fans, guests, staff, and players first. We’re hopeful that between now and Opening Day we’ll see tremendous strides taken toward returning to some level of normalcy. Whatever the situation, when it’s time to ‘play ball,’ we’ll be ready as a staff and facility.”