Welp, that's that. As rumored, the Rangers have made moving out of High Desert a reality as they've agreed to purchase the club and promptly move it to Kinston, North Carolina. They'll join the well-regarded Carolina League and even get to do battle with old friends in Myrtle Beach (now a Cubs affiliate).
In addition to moving the team, the Rangers will also own the club outright, which is both a possible trend in minor league baseball, and the first time the Rangers have owned one of their affiliates. Whether or not that becomes a movement going forward remains to be seen, but it certainly seems to be the emerging trend.
That said, this is a very exciting move. The team will be rebranded and begin playing in historic Grainger Stadium next April. The team and the City of Kinston had previously agreed to use $1.6million to bring the park up to standards and the work on the sod and playing field has already begun. In addition, the proximity to low-A Hickory made this decision even more appealing. A 4-hour drive separates the two towns and that not only facilitates easy player movement between the two levels, but also coaching and front office personnel. If Hickory has a day game and Kinston plays at night, an entire team of roving instructors or Rangers front office members could rather easily make both games.
It takes two to tango, so Bakersfield is also contracting from the California League and moving to Fayettetville, North Carolina. All signs point to that being an Astros club, so there's that. A new park in Fayetteville likely wouldn't be ready until 2019, so my hope is they continue to give serious consideration to playing at Fort Bragg in the meantime. (Astros brass, including Jim Crane have already quietly visited and toured Fort Bragg's ballpark) The Rangers have no such issues as Grainger should be ready to rock in 2017.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of the folks for whom the Mavericks were important to in High Desert. Over the last few years I'd heard from more than a few and I can imagine how bad this must suck for a part of the country that likely feels forgotten at this point. There are good people out there and good baseball fans and losing your team, your baseball outlet, is just a profound disappointment for these folks. Bakersfield too. Baseball has been played in Bakersfield for a long, long, long time, and they're going to miss it. When High Desert was first launched in 1991, it was the belle of the ball. It had huge attendance numbers and was a lively oasis for fans and people getting to know minor league baseball. As the military bases closed and the area was struck with more and more bad luck, attendance became an issue, but many of the die hard fans still make it to a few games a year. This sucks for them, and I don't want that to be completely overlooked.
So now that it's official, I expect some branding and naming articles to begin circulating and folks within the Rangers organization and fans alike will begin penciling in trips to see the young fellas working hard to be the next round of dudes. Good news is, you can now see 2 Texas Rangers A-ball games in the same day.