VISALIA, Calif. -- The Visalia Rawhide and Arizona Diamondbacks agreed on a four-year Player Development Contract extension Tuesday, ensuring that the D-backs will remain in the South Valley through 2016.
Diamondbacks director of player development Mike Bell expressed his delight in extending the affiliation.
"We were eager to continue our relationship with Visalia and this long-term extension gives us stability and ensures that our prospects have a great place to develop," Bell said. "Rawhide Ballpark is a terrific little facility with a lively atmosphere."
Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, in Visalia this week watching the D-backs' top prospects, has seen the improvements since his playing days in the California League in 1983.
"As someone who played here almost 30 years ago, and now visiting the past two seasons, I'm impressed with the deep history of baseball in Visalia and the intimate atmosphere of the ballpark," he said. "Visalia is a great baseball town and we look forward to many more Rawhide alumni starring for us in the years to come."
The Diamondbacks have aggressively developed prospects over the last decade, and many have come through Visalia. Rawhide alumni such as Justin Upton, Paul Goldschmidt, Wade Miley, Brett Anderson, Colin Cowgill and Jarrod Parker have all gone on to make a substantial impact at the Major League level.
This season, the Rawhide will send four players to the California/Carolina League All-Star Game as Chris Owings, Andrew Chafin, David Holmberg and Raywilly Gomez will represent Visalia on June 19 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The Diamondbacks' extension is conditioned on improvements to the field lighting, the one significant component of the facility that fails to meet even the minimum Major League Baseball facility standards. The ballclub is currently in talks with the City of Visalia about phasing in a new lighting system that will accommodate the standards set by Major League Baseball. The current light towers have been in place since the ballpark was constructed in 1946.
The City and the Rawhide are working toward the installation of taller towers and a more energy-efficient system.
The four-year deal is the longest extension a Visalia team has ever agreed on with a Major League affiliate. It also ensures that the Diamondbacks will become the second-longest tenured partner in Visalia professional baseball history behind only the Minnesota Twins (1977-92), who sent future stars Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek to Visalia; the affiliation, which began in 2007, will reach its 10th season in 2016.
"We're fortunate to have terrific working relationships with our partners -- the City of Visalia and the Arizona Diamondbacks," said Rawhide president Tom Seidler. "We're proud to now have a facility for affordable family entertainment in the greater Visalia community and we're grateful for the Diamondbacks' continued patience as we work with the city on the phasing in of a standard lighting system. We continue to work toward creating a proper home for professional baseball and the growing number of events at this wonderful community gathering place."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.