FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- The Fort Wayne TinCaps and San Diego Padres have agreed on a two-year extension of their Player Development Contract (PDC) through the 2020 season. This will stretch the affiliation between the organizations to 22 years, continuing what is already the longest-lasting Minor League Baseball affiliation in San Diego's franchise history.
"The Padres are building a World Series contender, and we're energized to be part of it," said TinCaps President Mike Nutter. "Beyond that, we're deeply appreciative of what the Padres do to help us make a positive impact in our community, and the stability of our relationship with the Padres is something we don't take for granted."
Despite 2,000-plus miles separating Parkview Field and Petco Park, Fort Wayne and San Diego have been partners since the 1999 season. In the Midwest League, only the West Michigan Whitecaps and Detroit Tigers (who are separated by about 160 miles) have a deeper tie--by two years.
The Padres annually donate more than 1,500 TinCaps tickets to non-profit organizations in the Fort Wayne area, allowing disadvantaged fans the chance to attend games at Parkview Field. Additionally, the Padres underwrite the costs for 1,000 tickets for military families on Military Appreciation Day at Parkview Field. Recently, the Padres sponsored a donation of bats and helmets to Fort Wayne's Challenger Baseball League for young individuals with physical and intellectual challenges. This is all on top of Padres prospects volunteering at countless community events during the season.
"We are extremely proud to continue our partnership with Fort Wayne," said A.J. Preller, Padres Executive Vice President/General Manager. "Our baseball operations group is tremendously appreciative of the steadfast leadership and professionalism of Jason Freier, Mike Nutter and the entire organization. Fort Wayne provides best-in-class facilities at Parkview Field and a fan base that has embraced our young core. Strong partners like the TinCaps and the city of Fort Wayne help our players grow and thrive as we continue to build a championship-caliber organization."
MLB.com currently rates San Diego's farm system as the best in the sport. The Padres have seven players rated among the top 80 prospects in baseball, and all seven have come through Fort Wayne, including current TinCaps left-handed pitcher MacKenzie Gore (No. 15), and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (No. 5), who shined here in 2017.
"Fort Wayne represents a critical step in our player development process," said Sam Geaney, Padres Director of Player Development. "We value what the Midwest League, the TinCaps, Parkview Field, and the city of Fort Wayne offer our players in what is typically their first full season of professional baseball. For that, we're grateful to see this relationship continue to flourish."
Since moving into Parkview Field in 2009, the TinCaps have made the Midwest League Playoffs in eight of nine seasons--more often than anyone else in the 16-team circuit. Fort Wayne reached the Midwest League Championship Series in 2017 for the third time in nine years, including in '09, when the franchise won its first league title. No Midwest League team has had more Championship Series appearances in this period.
Not only have the Padres supplied winning teams in Fort Wayne, but rosters full of future Major League players, too. In Fort Wayne's franchise history (dating back to 1993), 166 players have gone on to reach the big leagues. Of those, 83 have made their debut with the Padres.
A total of 13 former TinCaps have played for the Padres so far in 2018. Meanwhile, the next wave is on the way. Of the current "Top 30" Padres prospects according MLB.com, 27 have played for the TinCaps, including nine on the active roster. (The only outliers are two players who were acquired via trades and assigned to higher levels and 18-year-old infielder Jordy Barley , who hasn't reached this level yet.)
"Minor League Baseball is about player development, not to mention affordable fun for fans," Nutter said. "But our fan experience has been over-the-top with winning teams featuring budding big leaguers. We're proud to be with the Padres and can't wait to see what's on deck."
The previous two-year PDC for the teams was set to expire following the 2018 campaign. This announcement coincides with Preller, Geaney and other high-ranking members of San Diego's baseball operations staff visiting Fort Wayne.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.