Throughout the history of Minor League Baseball, shifting affiliations, locations and team names have been commonplace. Nonetheless, hallmarks of consistency can be found. This article highlights the 10 longest affiliations between a Minor League team and its parent Major League club. To be included on this list, the Minor League
Throughout the history of Minor League Baseball, shifting affiliations, locations and team names have been commonplace. Nonetheless, hallmarks of consistency can be found. This article highlights the 10 longest affiliations between a Minor League team and its parent Major League club. To be included on this list, the Minor League team in question must have remained in the same city throughout the entirety of the affiliation.
These relationships are all poised to continue well into the future, as nearly every Minor League team entered into a 10-year professional development license with its parent club that began in 2021.
All of these teams are well worth visiting. Click on the stadium name to read its Minor League Ballpark Guide entry, and visit the Minor League Ballpark Guides landing page, presented by Wyndham, for a searchable map of all Minor League ballparks as well as detailed write-ups of every individual ballpark.
Reading Fightin Phils (Eastern League), Double-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies since 1967
Stadium: FirstEnergy Stadium, built in 1951
Three Notable Alumni: Mike Schmidt, Ryne Sandberg, Ryan Howard
The Reading Fightin Phils, who were known simply as the Phillies through 2012, have aligned themselves with the Philadelphia Phillies since 1967. Since then a who's-who of Philadelphia's finest players have come through Reading, which is located approximately 50 miles to the northwest of Philadelphia. The Phillies bought the Reading franchise in 2008, so this relationship is likely to remain intact for many years -- perhaps many decades -- to come.
Lakeland Flying Tigers (Florida State League), affiliate of the Detroit Tigers since 1967
Stadium: Joker Marchant Stadium, built in 1963
Three Notable Alumni: John Smoltz, Lou Whitaker, Justin Verlander
Most Florida State League clubs are owned by their Major League affiliate and play in the same stadiums that are used by the big league club for Spring Training. It, therefore, is a more stable league than most, and nowhere is this stability more evident than in Lakeland. After four decades in which they were known simply as the Tigers, Lakeland changed its name to the Flying Tigers in 2007 in honor of the pilot training school that was once located where Joker Marchant Stadium now stands.
Omaha Storm Chasers (International League), Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals since 1969
Stadiums: Rosenblatt Stadium (1969-2010); Werner Park (2011-present)
Three Notable Alumni: George Brett, Frank White, Salvador Pérez
In 2011, after 42 seasons in which they were primarily known as the Royals, Omaha's Pacific Coast League franchise changed its name to the Storm Chasers and moved to a stadium outside of Omaha city limits (Werner Park is located in neighboring Sarpy County). The team's affiliation with Kansas City remains the longest in Triple-A by a wide margin, as the relationship is now in its sixth decade. The Storm Chasers are the western-most franchise within the sprawling 20-team International League.
Iowa Cubs (International League), Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs since 1981
Stadium: Sec Taylor Stadium (1981-91); Principal Park (1992-present)
Three Notable Alumni: Greg Maddux, Joe Carter, Mark Grace
Iowa is entering its 43rd season as a Cubs affiliate and 46th as a Chicago affiliate, as this Des Moines-based entity was a White Sox farm club from 1976-80. From 1969-81 the team was known as "The Oaks"; they took on the Cubs moniker in 1982. Formerly a Pacific Coast League entity, the I-Cubs now compete in the International League. They remain the only Triple-A team in the state of Iowa.
Clearwater Threshers (Florida State League), affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies since 1985
Stadiums: Jack Russell Memorial Stadium (1985-2003); Bay Care Ballpark (2004-present)
Three Notable Alumni: Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard
The Threshers are an amalgamation of the top two teams on this list. Like Reading, they are a Phillies affiliate; like Lakeland, they compete in the Florida State League. For the first 19 seasons of their existence, Clearwater was known simply as the Phillies. The 2004 move to their current home of Bay Care Ballpark (Spring Training home of the Phillies) inspired a name change, as they rebranded as the Phillies as the Threshers.
Birmingham Barons (Southern League), Double-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox since 1986
Stadiums: Rickwood Field (1986-87); Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (1988-2012); Regions Field (2013-present)
Three Notable Alumni: Michael Jordan, Tim Anderson, Frank Thomas
Birmingham has fielded a team in the Southern League in every season since 1981, while the Barons name can be traced nearly 100 years prior to that. The team's affiliation with the White Sox began in 1986, back when the team still played at Rickwood Field. That facility, built in 1910, is now recognized as "the world's oldest ballpark."
Toledo Mud Hens (Triple-A East), Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers since 1987
Stadiums: Ned Skeldon Stadium (1987-2001); Fifth Third Field (2002-present)
Three Notable Alumni: Curtis Granderson, Mike Hessman, Max Scherzer
The Detroit system is comprised of longstanding relationships. In addition to Toledo and the aforementioned Lakeland Flying Tigers, it also includes the Double-A Erie SeaWolves (2001) and High-A West Michigan Whitecaps (1997). The Mud Hens were previously part of the International League, whose 14 members are now part of the 20-team Triple-A East. Their affiliation with Detroit is now entering its 35th season. Among the Mud Hens' most notable players during this era was all-time Minor League home run leader Mike Hessman, who hit 184 dingers over two stints in Toledo.
Dunedin Blue Jays (Florida State League), affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays since 1987
Stadiums: Grant Field (1987-89); TD Ballpark (1990-present)
Three Notable Alumni: Dave Stieb, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Jeff Kent
The first Florida State League iteration of the Dunedin Blue Jays played in 1978 and 1979. The team returned in 1987 and has been a stalwart of the Toronto system ever since. The "D-Jays" play in TD Ballpark, which also serves as Toronto's Spring Training home. The ballpark underwent a major renovation in 2019, which resulted in the team having to spend the season at Clearwater's Jack Russell Stadium (among a variety of other locales). In 2021 it hosted the Toronto Blue Jays for the first two months of the regular season, as the U.S.-Canadian border was closed due to COVID-19.
St. Lucie Mets (Florida State League), affiliate of the New York Mets since 1988
Stadium: Clover Park (1988 - present)
Three Notable Alumni: Edgardo Alfonzo, David Wright, Jacob deGrom
Sensing a pattern here? The St. Lucie Mets are the fourth (and final) Florida State League team on this list that play at their parent club's Spring Training facility. Clover Park opened in 1988 as Thomas J. White Stadium and later was known as Tradition Field, First Data Field and Digital Domain Park before arriving at its current moniker in 2020. As with Lakeland and Dunedin, the ballpark has undergone extensive renovations and appears poised to host Spring Training and Minor League Baseball for many years to come.
San Jose Giants (California League), affiliate of the San Francisco Giants since 1988
Stadium: Excite Ballpark (opened in 1942)
Three Notable Alumni: Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner
The team that is now the San Jose Giants began operating in the California League (as the Bees) in 1979, with the San Francisco affiliation and corresponding Giants moniker beginning nine years later. It is the longest-running partnership in the California League by a wide margin, with the runner-up being the Lake Elsinore Storm and the San Diego Padres (affiliated since 2001). The Bees' home of Excite Stadium, built in 1942 and originally called Municipal Stadium, is the oldest ballpark in the league.
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.