Two years ago, the Cubs left Peoria for Kane County to be closer to Wrigley Field. Now they’re headed east to Indiana and Four Winds Field. The Chicago Cubs and the South Bend Silver Hawks announced a player development contract through 2018.
The Cubs replace the Arizona Diamondbacks, who called South Bend home since1997. The South Bend franchise was a White Sox affiliate since its beginnings in 1988 until 1996. The team is owned by Andrew Berlin, who is also a part-owner in the Chicago White Sox.
"Today is a turning point," said Berlin in a press release. "I made a promise to the local community and government officials who welcomed me with open arms three years ago. I promised that I would return the team to its former glory days. And I promised that I'd do everything I could to bring people back to South Bend and prove that this is a wonderful place to invest in."
"Now, one of the best and most beloved brands in the history of Major League Baseball is making a bold statement about this place too." added Berlin. "The Chicago Cubs are giving South Bend and this whole region a big vote of confidence."
"We are excited to partner with South Bend and look forward to a productive relationship with the team, as well as the entire South Bend community," said Jason McLeod, the Cubs Senior Vice President, Scouting and Player Development. "Making the decision to switch minor league affiliates is never an easy one, but we are confident that this agreement will further strengthen our farm system."
"It's a great day for the city and for the team," commented Joe Hart, President of the South Bend Silver Hawks. "I'm grateful to the Chicago Cubs management for believing in our commitment to player development and especially for believing in this region. This really says a lot about the whole Michiana community. The Cubs were impressed with everything that makes this such a great place."
"Our aim is to thrill the fans and build a thriving beacon in the community," added Berlin. "We've proved that when you put the right people, people like Team President Joe Hart and his remarkable staff, in the right positions, great things will happen and everyone wins. It's part of what the Cubs organization saw in South Bend."
The Silver Hawks have continued to make extraordinary financial commitments to player development in each offseason since Berlin assumed ownership three years ago. This offseason will be no different as major capital investments designed to improve player development are once again underway.
"And I have to add that the Cubs management team was tremendously impressed by the rich tradition of winning demonstrated historically by area schools, colleges and universities throughout this region," said Berlin. "This is not just a sports town. It's a place made of champions."
Key Chicago Cubs management will be introduced to the media along with Andrew Berlin and Joe Hart on Thursday, September 25 during a press conference at the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce. In the interim, the South Bend Silver Hawks will be working with the Cubs and the National Association of Minor League Baseball to unveil the new name, logo and uniform during that media event.
This also leaves Kane County looking at either the A’s or the Diamondbacks to play over the next two seasons. In early September, Kane County announced a major capital improvement project under new owner Dr. Bob Froehlich.
“Similar to the Cougars’ parent club Chicago Cubs, the Cougars will embark on a capital improvement project that will add numerous elements to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark to be enjoyed by players, coaches and fans. The Cougars will be constructing a new batting cage built to the Cubs specifications, complete with two hitting tunnels. The climate-controlled cage will also house an expanded Cougars’ weight room and a state-of-the-art video room, allowing convenient access for Cougars and Cubs field staff to develop and evaluate players.” part of the release stated.
Many thought it was a signal that an announcement between the two sides was eminent but that obviously never transpired. Froehlich was told Wednesday night by Cubs owner Tom Ricketts the Cubs wouldn’t be coming back to Kane County.
"The Cubs are fortunate to have had the opportunity to play in Kane County the past two years and we thank Dr. Bob Froehlich, the entire front office, and all of the Cougars fans for their support," added McLeod. "We are proud that our relationship culminated with a Midwest League title this past season."
Four Winds Field is a symmetrical field, 336 down the lines and 405 to straight away center. The 5,000-seat stadium has astro-turf but that is being removed in October and a new grass field will be ready for opening day. Constructor will also begin on a new 11,000-square-foot batting and pitching facility that will be built over the right-field wall.