ERIE — Fans of Minor League Baseball living in northwest Pennsylvania received some good news Wednesday afternoon when the Detroit Tigers announced that the Erie SeaWolves “have been invited” to remain the club’s Double-A affiliate, according to a press release from the Detroit Tigers.
There had been plenty of concern about whether or not Erie would survive Major League Baseball’s contraction plan for the minor leagues, but they made the cut of 120 teams that will fill the ranks from Triple-A down to Double-A, Advanced-A and Single-A.
In 2018, Erie Events was awarded a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for enhancements to UPMC Park, according to a press release from the SeaWolves. That turned into improvements all around UPMC Park, some of which are still in the process of being completed.
“We are thrilled and honored to be invited by the Tigers to continue as their Double-A affiliate,” SeaWolves Owner/CEO Fernando Aguirre said in the team’s release. “The SeaWolves and Tigers have built a strong partnership, and today’s announcement confirms our commitment to Erie. UPMC Park has been through a major transformation over the last 18 months, and we look forward to having one of the best facilities in Minor League Baseball next season. We thank Erie Events, Governor Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Detroit Tigers, UPMC, and Erie’s elected officials for their collective efforts. We also thank our fans, team partners, and staff for their dedication and continued support.”
Fellow Double-A Eastern League teams Akron (Cleveland), Altoona (Pittsburgh), Binghamton (New York Mets), Bowie (Baltimore), Harrisburg (Washington), New Hampshire (Toronto), Portland (Boston), Reading (Philadelphia) and Richmond (San Francisco) also survived, while the only change in the league was made in the New York Yankees organization. “Somerset” will field the Yankees’ new Double-AA team in Bridgewater Township, New Jersey, taking over for Trenton, who was the previous Yankees affiliate since 2003.
Trenton was one of 11 full-season teams that were not invited to join the minor league ladder in 2021. However, the team will be part of the new MLB Draft League that will also feature the former MLB-affiliate Frederick Keys, Mahoning Valley Scrappers, State College Spikes, West Virginia Black Bears and Williamsport Crosscutters.
The Erie SeaWolves began play in 1995 as the Short-Season A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In conjunction with Major League Baseball expansion, the SeaWolves successfully earned the opportunity to compete at the Double-A level in 1999 as an affiliate of the California Angels. After two seasons with the Angels, the SeaWolves assumed its current role in the Tigers’ player development system.
Current big leaguers Nick Castellanos, Matt Joyce, Corey Knebel, Cameron Maybin, James McCann, Andrew Miller, Drew Smyly, Eugenio Suarez and Justin Verlander — along with former players Curtis Granderson, Jose Guillen, John Lackey and Aramis Ramirez — all made the pit stop in Erie on their way to the Majors. The SeaWolves have also been home to Major League players conducting their rehab assignments, such as Gary DiSarcina, Carlos Guillen, Dontrelle Willis and Dmitri Young. Currently 28 of the players on the Tigers’ 40-man roster have played for Erie in their respective careers.
“For nearly 20 years, Erie and its community have been great partners, and we’re thrilled to invite them back as our Double-A affiliate,” Al Avila, Detroit Tigers Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager said. “I’d like to especially thank Fernando Aguirre and local and state government officials for coming together and supporting the much-needed facility improvements at UPMC Park for this coming season, including a new home clubhouse and training facility. The difference in workplace quality for our players is vital to their development, and we’re looking forward to seeing these additions come to completion.”