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Washington Nationals extend invitations to four minor league affiliates: Rochester; Harrisburg; Wilmington; Fredericksburg

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Washington’s Nationals extended invitations to Rochester, Harrisburg, Wilmington, and Fredericksburg to join as the club’s minor league affiliates in 2021 and beyond...

Baseball in America. Minor League Baseball. Rochester Red Wings V The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRide Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Washington’s Nationals announced this afternoon that they have extended invitations to four organizations to become, “... minor league affiliates in Major League Baseball’s new player development structure, pending acceptance of the invitation.” The four affiliates, announced this afternoon, are the Rochester Red Wings (Triple-A); Harrisburg Senators (Double-A); Wilmington Blue Rocks (High A); and the Fredericksburg Nationals (Low-A).

“We are very excited to extend the invitations to these four affiliates and their communities,” Nationals’ President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo said in a press release on today’s announcements.

“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.”

The geography is a topic of discussion because the Nationals spent the past two seasons with their Triple-A affiliate on the west coast after they were left with the Fresno Grizzlies once their previous top minor league affiliate was purchased by the New York Mets.

The Triple-A International League’s Rochester Red Wings were an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins for the previous 18 years, but they’re the Nationals’ affiliate now.

“We are pleased to have received the invitation, and we hope that the terms put forward by Major League Baseball will be acceptable,” Rochester Red Wings’ President, CEO, and COO Naomi Silver said in today’s press release.

“Once we receive the full details from MLB, we’ll be evaluating the proposal carefully to assure that it works for our team, the fans and the community before formally accepting.”

Harrisburg is remaining the Nationals’ Double-A affiliate, as they have been since baseball returned to the nation’s capital in 2005.

“We are happy to have received the invitation to remain the Double-A affiliate for the Nationals,” Senators’ Team President Kevin Kulp said in the same press release.

“The support that the Senators & FNB Field receive from community leaders, ownership, fans, team partners, local media, and so many others makes our spot on City Island one of the best in Minor League Baseball and we’re excited for baseball to return in 2021.”

The Wilmington Blue Rocks were the Kansas City Royals’ Single-A Carolina League affiliate for 26 of the last 28 seasons (1993–2004, 2007–20).

“Clark Minker and I can’t wait to welcome the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals to Wilmington,” Blue Rocks’ owner Dave Heller said in today’s release.

“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!”

The Blue Rocks didn’t wait long to accept the Nationals’ invitation today:

While the Potomac Nationals were the Nationals’ High-A Carolina league affiliate in previous seasons, they relocated to Fredericksburg, Virginia before the 2020 campaign, and they are now going to be the club’s Low-A affiliate.

Their home park served as the club’s base of operations in 2020 for the Alternate Training Site where players in the 60-Man Player Pool but not on the big league roster worked out.

“We are thrilled to be continuing an incredible and deep relationship with the Washington Nationals that began with their arrival in D.C. back in 2005,” FredNats’ Chairman and Owner Art Silber said today.

“We’ve enjoyed watching the Nats’ future stars — like Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg — grow up and develop in front of our fans. The continuation of our long relationship will allow fans throughout the greater Fredericksburg region to enjoy seeing the next stars of the Nationals play in front of their eyes in our new ballpark opening in 2021 in Fredericksburg.”

With today’s news, the club officially cut ties with both the Fresno Grizzlies, and the South Atlantic League’s Hagerstown Suns, who had been an affiliate since 2007.

Rizzo addressed both affiliates in today’s press release, thanking them for their role in the organization’s player development over the years:

“The Washington Nationals would like to thank the Fresno Grizzlies for their partnership the last two seasons. Although it was short, the Grizzlies organization was a pleasure to work with and we enjoyed being a part of that fan base and community. The organization took care of our players, coaches and staff that called Fresno home and we could not be more grateful. We wish the organization and the community the best of luck going forward.”

“The Washington Nationals would like to thank the Hagerstown Suns and their fans for 14 years of incredible support. Since 2007, Hagerstown has been a stop in the journey of countless big leaguers. The endless support of host families, front office and stadium staff through the years allowed our players and coaches to concentrate on becoming the best they could be. We wish the organization and the community the best of luck going forward.”

Washington Post beat writer Jesse Dougherty wrote on Twitter that a source told him that the Nationals expect all the affiliates to expect the invitations: