The Red Wings did not have to wait long to find a new parent club.
Nine days after announcing the Twins were moving on from their partnership, the Red Wings announced they will now be affiliated with the Washington Nationals.
“We’re pumped,” said Red Wings general manager Dan Mason.
The length of the agreement is still being worked about by major league baseball. Mason they hope to know more terms of the agreement “shortly”.
“We aim to have a long and fruitful relationship as we had with the Cardinals, Twins and Orioles,” Mason said.
Mason admitted he was a bit surprised the process was completed so quickly. Initially, he thought it would take weeks for the Wings to hook on with another major league team. He joked about not getting much sleep since the Twins parted ways last week and was happy to get a swift resolution.
The Nationals will be the 4th parent club in the 90-plus year history of affiliated baseball in Rochester, following the Cardinals, Orioles and Twins.
While the Wings have had “long and fruitful relationships” with the Twins and Orioles, neither team has won a World Series in nearly 30 years. The Nats just won the title in 2019. It’s no small task and the easiest way to sell Rochester on the Nationals.
“To win the World Series, you’ve got to have a combination of things going your way. You have to have great players, obviously, but you have to have a great baseball operations department to put all those players in place. You have to have a great support staff–your trainers, your strength coaches. You have to have great ownership that’s supportive. They have all that,” Mason said. “To be affiliated with somebody who is fresh off winning a World Series ring, that’s pretty dang cool.”
At least one member of the Nationals front office already has a good idea about how much Rochester will appreciate their partnership. Assistant GM Doug Harris pitched seven games for the Wings in 1996. Mason has a long relationship with Harris and says the Nationals are also excited about connecting with the Red Wings.
The two teams have already worked together on an important project before and it left Mason very impressed with the Nationals organization.
In 2010, Stephen Strasburg was a number one draft pick and a widely followed phenom still on his way to the major leagues. Washington’s farm team was in Syracuse at the time, and one of Strasburg’s starts was happening in Rochester.
It was a giant baseball event in Rochester that attracted a huge crowd to Frontier Field. Unfortunately, the game was rained out.
The Nats not only allowed the Wings to play a day-night doubleheader the next day (admission is charged for each game separately, instead of one ticket for both), they pitched Strasburg in the night game to allow more fans a chance to see him.
“They were a road team coming here and were extremely accommodating with us because the understood the impact it would have on our organization as well as our fans,” Mason said. “They won my heart that day.”
Washington’s triple-A club last year was in Fresno, California. However, Fresno is dropping down to single-A this season and the major league baseball is trying to better regionalize each major league team’s farm system. Rochester was long considered a very likely partner.
The Nationals will no longer have to put players on a red eye flight from California when they get called up from Triple-A. It was difficult for those players to be ready for a 1pm afternoon start hours after getting off an overnight flight.
Rochester gives the Nationals an ability to even drive their players between the majors and Triple-A, if necessary. Mason is excited that Rochester fans can not only make a drive to see Red Wings graduates play in Washington, but they easily get to a host of Nats road games in places like Pittsburgh, Philly and New York.
There was really never any chance the Wings would be left without a parent club. Mason says Major League Baseball is well aware of the baseball tradition in Rochester as well as the support from fans, media and their corporate partnerships.
“Those are the reasons why we’ve had professional baseball here in Rochester since 1877,” Mason said. “They’re very aware of the pride Rochester has in its hometown team.”
A pride that Washington Nationals players will now get to see up close.