Another dose of 2020 change arrived Wednesday.
The Nationals now have invitations out to four minor-league affiliates, establishing two new locations and discarding a longtime one.
The invitations are as follows:
- Rochester Red Wings – Triple-A
- Harrisburg Senators – Double-A
- Wilmington Blue Rocks – High-A
- Fredericksburg Nationals – Low-A
Harrisburg and Fredericksburg are holdovers. Rochester replaces Fresno as the Triple-A affiliate -- which was previously known. New to the group is the Wilmington Blue Rocks in Delaware. Out are the Hagerstown Suns after 14 years of being affiliated with the Nationals, who came to D.C. in 2005.
The Nationals sent thanks to Hagerstown and Fresno on social media. Players will be thankful Fresno is no longer part of their travel plans after one full season in California in 2019 and the shut down of minor-league baseball in 2020. The new affiliates square up the geography of the Nationals’ minor-league system.
“We are very excited to extend the invitations to these four affiliates and their communities,” Mike Rizzo said in a statement. “All four affiliates are located in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, with Harrisburg, Wilmington and Fredericksburg located within 120 miles of Nationals Park. Wilmington and Fredericksburg are easily accessible via the I-95 corridor. 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.”
Fredericksburg has a new stadium. Harrisburg remains an archaic, if gritty, venue. Both have been associated with the Nationals since 2005.
Rochester is one of the most well-established Triple-A teams in the minor leagues. Wilmington links up with the Nationals after being connected to Kansas City for 26 of the last 28 seasons as their Single-A Carolina League affiliate.
The Blue Rocks play their home games at Daniel S. Frawley Stadium, a facility that opened when the organization relocated to Wilmington in 1993.
“Clark Minker and I can’t wait to welcome the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals to Wilmington,” said Blue Rocks owner Dave Heller in a statement. “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!”
Each organization needs to accept the Nationals’ invitation. That’s step one in what will continue to be a convoluted process as Major League Baseball continues to reshape Minor League Baseball with fewer teams and amid the coronavirus pandemic.