Rangers acquire Class A Hickory franchise

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In 2016, the Rangers took ownership of a Minor League franchise that was relocated to Kinston, N.C., and became the Down East Wood Ducks. They play in the Carolina League, which is considered one level higher than the South Atlantic League.

“The Texas Rangers are proud and honored to make this announcement today,” said Neil Leibman, chairman of the Texas Rangers ownership committee. “We are acquiring a franchise that has thrived under the stewardship of Don Beaver and his ownership for the last quarter century, and we are committed to continuing that legacy. We pledge to be a great community partner with the City of Hickory, and we look forward to a long and successful relationship.”

Beaver initially purchased the Gastonia Rangers and moved the team to Hickory, where the Crawdads were an affiliate of the White Sox before switching to the Pirates from 1999-2008.

“On behalf of the ownership group, we would like to thank the fans for 25 years of tremendous support,” Beaver said. “We hate to sell the team, but it’s the right thing to do to ensure that baseball stays in Hickory. The Rangers are a first-class organization that we’ve been able to experience first-hand the last nine years. The future of the team couldn’t be in more capable hands.”

Leibman will serve as president of the Crawdads. Mark Seaman, who has overseen Hickory’s day-to-day operations as general manager since October 2007, will continue in that role.

The Rangers now have ownership of three of their six Minor League teams, along with the Arizona Rookie League Rangers. The other three teams are the Triple-A Round Rock Express, the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders and the Class A Spokane Indians. The Rangers’ arrangement with all three runs through 2018.

The Rangers have been affiliated with the RoughRiders since their inaugural season of 2003. The RoughRiders are located approximately 35 miles from Globe Life Park, and that relationship is expected to be maintained for an extended period of time.

Round Rock is a different matter. The Express is owned by Nolan Ryan and became the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate in 2011. At the time, Ryan was the Rangers’ club president, but he has since stepped down and is now working with the Astros. His son Reid is also president of the Astros, and it is almost certain that the Express will become a Houston affiliate in 2019.

The Astros’ Triple-A affiliate right now is currently the Fresno Grizzlies. The Rangers had a Triple-A relationship with Oklahoma City from 1983-2010, but that franchise is now owned outright by the Dodgers.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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