The Angels are headed to Inland Empire in 2011 following weeks of speculation surrounding the fate of a few California League teams.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Class A Advanced 66ers announced a two-year player development contract through the end of the 2012 baseball season on Thursday. The 66ers had been affiliated with the Dodgers for the past four seasons.
"We are very excited to be a part of the Angels' affiliation and their strong fan support in the Inland Empire," 66ers owner David Elmore said. "The Angels will be a strong marketing partner, and we look forward to adopting and expanding their brand and their values."
Cal League fans have been waiting to see how the affiliation swaps would play out this month after the Dodgers pulled out of Inland Empire and agreed to a deal with Rancho Cucamonga. The Angels' deal likely means the Cincinnati Reds will move their Class A Advanced affiliate to Bakersfield for next year, filling out the Cal League.
"The Angel organization is excited to begin our relationship with the Inland Empire 66ers," said Angels director of player development Abe Flores. "They have a first-rate ballpark and front office as well as passionate fans that continually support the club. It is our hope to cultivate a relationship with the City of San Bernardino and embrace fans throughout the Inland Empire."
The Angels had been aligned with the Quakes since 2001, but like many teams around the Minors this year, faced a decision when their PDC expired.
The Reds' situation has been a bit more confusing and is not officially solved, yet. Initially based in Sarasota, Fla., the Reds moved their Class A Advanced affiliate last winter to Lynchburg in the Carolina League, finishing a one-year agreement after the Pirates moved their club to Bradenton in the Florida State League. Lynchburg agreed to a deal with Atlanta earlier this month, leaving the Reds to find a new home.
With Inland Empire off the shelf, it likely means Bakersfield, the former Texas Rangers' affiliate, will host the National League Central Division champs going forward.
Inland Empire, meanwhile, had been a home for the Dodgers for 10 of the last 16 seasons, with L.A. sending former slugger Manny Ramirez to the club twice in the last two seasons for rehab.
The swap may leave some California fans debating their allegiances, although the Angels should continue to pump talent through the Cal League.
"The Angels have been one of the most exciting Minor League systems in terms of impact players rising to the Majors and style of play on the field through all levels, including [Class A Advanced]," said 66ers director of broadcasting Sam Farber. "It's an exciting time to be an Inland Empire fan as we celebrate 25 years of 66ers baseball with an exciting new Major League partner and an opportunity to bring home the franchise's sixth California League championship."
Fans won't need to wait long to pick sides, either: the Quakes open the 2011 season against the 66ers on April 7.