The Arkansas Travelers
The Arkansas Travelers enjoy one of the longest running histories of any minor league franchise. The Travs have failed to field a team in only seven years (due to the war) since 1901, the last absence coming in 1962 when the venerable Southern Association folded.
The Travelers have been a member of five professional baseball leagues, beginning in 1901 as a charter member of the Southern Association. Following the collapse of the circuit, the 1963-65 Travelers took a leap up to Class AAA, joining forces with the Philadelphia Phillies in the International League and Pacific Coast League. The Travs also joined the American Association, but didn't play in the league. Since 1966, the Travs have been a member of the Texas League. The 2019 season will be the Travelers' 54th consecutive in the Texas League, leaving the venerable franchise as the longest continuously running current Texas League club.
The "Travelers" nickname is one of the oldest in professional sports. In fact, the Travelers have never taken a different nickname making it the second-longest running continuous nickname in Minor League Baseball, only trailing the Buffalo Bisons.
The name "Arkansas Travelers" is derived from the famous minstrel known as the Arkansas Traveler, who roamed the Ozark Mountains selling his wares and singing songs. The team was originally known as the Little Rock Travelers, and was renamed for the entire state in 1957, becoming the first professional sports franchise named after a state.
The term Travelers has been associated with Arkansas in many ways aside from baseball, including a certificate given to significant visitors from outside the state to the group of campaigners that traveled the country during President Bill Clinton's successful 1992 and 1996 campaigns. To learn more about the term "Arkansas Traveler" follow this link to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
The Travelers became the Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners in September of 2016 after spending 16 years as the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. During the time with the Angels, the Travs owned two Texas League championships (2001, 2008) and five Texas League Division Championships. Record breakers, all-stars and post season heroes wore the Travelers uniform as an Angels minor leaguer including 2012 AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout, single-season saves record holder Francisco Rodriguez and 2008 AL All-Stars Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana. Pitcher John Lackey, who threw the first pitch for the Travs as an Angels affiliate in 2001, became only the second rookie to win the seventh game of the World Series for the 2002 Angels championship squad and was the winning pitcher in the clinching sixth game of the 2013 World Series for the Boston Red Sox. Former All-Star reliever Bobby Jenks, who saved four games in the 2005 World Series for the champion White Sox also pitched for the Travelers from 2001-2003. Current Angels ace Jered Weaver also pitched for the Travs during the 2005 season. Brewers star shortstop Jean Segura manned the keystone position for the 2012 Travelers.
The Travs have been a part of eight other Major League farm systems throughout the years. From 1966-2000, the Travs were the Class AA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. The second-longest active affiliation when it ended, the Travs/Cards partnership lasted 35 years. The Phillies were the affiliate in Little Rock during the three-year stint at Class AAA. The Travs also worked under agreements with the Baltimore Orioles (1961), Kansas City A's (1957-58), Detroit Tigers (1948-55), Boston Braves (1947), Chicago White Sox (1946) and Boston Red Sox (1937-39).
In 2014, the Travelers debuted new home, road and alternate game caps. The logo you see next to this paragraph is displayed on caps worn for home games. The "A-Travs" logo at the top of this page is displayed on all caps for road games. These caps were designed for the 2014 season and represent the first major rebranding of the Travelers' caps since the early 1990s.
These are the first game worn Travs caps since 2006 that feature an "A" representing "Arkansas", the moniker the Travelers franchise took in 1958 as the first professional baseball team to name itself after an entire state.
Dickey-Stephens Park, which opened in 2007, is the third park to be known as the "Home of the Travs". The Travelers originally played at Kavanaugh Field from 1896 through 1931. Little Rock's Central High School's Quigley Stadium was built on the former Kavanaugh Field in 1936. Bill Dickey, Travis Jackson and Tris Speaker all played at Kavanaugh Field while donning a Travs uniform.
In 1932 the team moved into "an all-new steel and concrete facility" in what originally was named Travelers Field. For the next 76 years, this ballpark hosted thousands of Travelers games along with games involving college and Negro League teams.
In 1966 Travelers Field was renamed to honor the late Ray Winder, who in 52 years rose from ticket seller to owner and eventually savior of the Travelers. It was Ray Winder who spearheaded the return for the Travelers to Little Rock, as a fan-owned enterprise, after a brief hiatus during the 1959 season.
In 1991, Ray Winder Field hosted the largest crowd ever to witness a baseball game in Arkansas, more than 12,000, to watch Fernando Valenzuela's rehabilitation start. After 74 years, Ray Winder Field hosted its farewell baseball game with 8,307 in attendance on September 3, 2006.
The Arkansas Travelers are owned by Arkansas Travelers Baseball Inc., which was formed in 1960 when Ray Winder led a public stock drive to purchase the New Orleans franchise for a move to Little Rock. The Travs have operated under this ownership structure ever since.