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New Places, Fresh Faces

A New League, Affiliation Add to the Rich History of the Blue Rocks
June 22, 2021

Wilmington, DE – Ever since baseball returned to Wilmington back in 1993, the team that calls Frawley Stadium home has been through quite a few changes over those years.

Wilmington, DE – Ever since baseball returned to Wilmington back in 1993, the team that calls Frawley Stadium home has been through quite a few changes over those years.

As of the 2021 season, the Wilmington Blue Rocks have a new major league affiliate in the Washington Nationals after big changes were made throughout minor league baseball this past offseason. Now a part of minor league baseball’s High-A East League, the Blue Rocks will be facing brand new teams and for the first time ever, will go up against a Philadelphia Phillies affiliated team in the Jersey Shore BlueClaws.

Prior to this change, the team has had three different affiliation stints with two different teams, the Kansas City Royals and the Boston Red Sox, all while staying a Class-A Advanced team in the Carolina League.

Long time Blue Rocks front office employee and public address announcer for the team Kevin Linton has been a part of the organization since 2001, which has allowed him to experience all these changes along with the team.

Linton explained how right before the Blue Rocks, who were the Peninsula Pilots out of Hampton, Virginia before getting to Wilmington, started their first season, they signed a deal to become a part of the Kansas City Royals system, which lasted until 2004.

“Upon arriving here to Wilmington, the affiliation was signed between the Blue Rocks and the Kansas City Royals,” Linton said. “So we started off with the Kansas City Royals in 1993 and fast forward to 2004 at the end of that season, our affiliation agreement came up for renewal, we decided to shop it out and went with the Boston Red Sox. Signed a 2-year agreement with the Boston Red Sox to be our affiliate, and we served with them from 2005-2006.”

The Blue Rocks came to an affiliation agreement with the Red Sox right after their 2004 World Series win. That, combined with the fact that changing affiliations is always a big deal, brought a lot of emotions to the organization according to Linton.

“When we moved from the Royals to the Red Sox the first time, there was a little anxiety there and the Red Sox had just come off a World Series after 86 years,” Linton said. “So there was excitement too when we changed affiliations, we brought in Theo Epstein, Terry Francona who was the manager at the time, and they were here for a press conference to announce the change.”

The stay with the Red Sox only lasted for two seasons though. At the end of 2006, it was time for a new contract to be signed, and the Blue Rocks were looking to get back together with the Kansas City Royals.

“When the 2006 season ended, our owner was Matt Minker; he was still with us at that time. He decided to go back to the Royals,” Linton said. “They had a change in their player personnel department and he was excited about the future of the Royals system, so we went back and signed with the Royals.”

This deal, which would last over a decade, would allow the Blue Rocks to be a part of Kansas City’s farm system during some pretty big moments.

“In 2007, we were back to the Royals, and there was some excitement surrounding that and we knew it would be a long haul with them because they were kind of starting from the bottom when it came to their drafts and their players,” Linton said. “It paid off because in 2014 they were American League champions and in 2015 they were World Series champions, so we were with the Royals through that entire ride.”

During this time, the Blue Rocks also saw some success of their own, winning their own Division Championship in 2015 and 2019, with 2019 also being the year they won the Carolina League Championship. In fact, all six of the team’s division titles and their five league titles all came while they were affiliated with the Kansas City Royals.

2019 was also the year that their newest affiliate, the Washington Nationals, won their World Series, so Linton is hoping that both team’s success will continue.

“They [Washington Nationals] just came off a World Series in ‘19, so we hope that they can repeat that and bottle that up down the line,” Linton said.

Every team goes through eras throughout their history, and the Wilmington Blue Rocks is just starting a new one with the Nationals and this league. And this new era will hopefully not only bring success, but a chance for fans to watch a whole new group of teams face off against the Blue Rocks.

“We are in a market that houses Phillies fans, Orioles fans, Nationals fans, and some New York fans and we are now going to be able to see the visiting teams coming in from our division who represent the Phillies, the Orioles, the Yankees, and the Mets,” Linton said. “So that’s kind of exciting, I think our fans are going to like that.”