Padres move Double-A to San Antonio

The San Diego Padres will call San Antonio their Double-A home through at least 2008, leaving the Mobile BayBears to work out a deal with either the Seattle Mariners or Arizona Diamondbacks. The two-year player development contract (PDC) will be announced on Thursday.

The Padres admittedly wanted to shop around after the season and looked to San Antonio and the Missions as a win-win situation. Putting all of their eggs in that basket paid off.

"I think they became attracted to us just as we were to them," Grady Fuson, the Padres' vice president of scouting and player development said. "For us and our community outreach programs it is about bringing our affiliates into our family. It is all about people."

The Padres leave behind Mobile and the Southern League – a marriage that had lasted since Hank Aaron Stadium was built in 1997. They reached the playoffs in each of their first two seasons in Alabama, winning the Southern League Championship in 1998 and 2004.

Sixty-eight players who saw time in Mobile have made it to the major leagues, three joining the club this year with Mike Thompson and Josh Barfield making their major league debuts in San Diego and Travis Chick making his with the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners had been affiliated with the Missions since 2001, winning Texas League Championships in 2002 and 2003.

"Number one the league – I found the league is an attractive league with how things are situated," Fuson explained of the draw of leaving the Southern League for the Texas League. "Geographics and the mobility of players; San Antonio is a one-stop jump from San Diego. The stadium, the ownership, the city and everything about it. It is a gorgeous town."

The same ownership group that owns the Missions also owns the Eugene Emeralds. The positive impact of Fuson and his staff and its correlation with a better program in the Northwest League likely aided the process.

Among the things that attracted Fuson and the Padres was the up to date state of the stadium.

"Not that Mobile is a bad stadium – this is a little more updated. The clubhouse is fantastic. The hitting cage is tremendous and spacious," Fuson said, touching upon the highlights.

Nelson Wolff Municipal Stadium "The Wolff" was built in 1994. Its dimensions are 310-feet down the left field line, 402-feet to centerfield and 340-feet down the right field line.

Considered to be more of a pitcher's park than a hitter's park, it will share that attribute with their former affiliate in Mobile. The Missions play in the South Division of the Texas League with the Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros), Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers), and Midland RockHounds (A's). The North Division features the Arkansas Travelers (Angels), Springfield Cardinals (Cardinals), Tulsa Drillers (Rockies), and Wichita Wranglers (Royals).

San Antonio is the nation's largest metropolitan area without baseball at the Major or Triple-A level.

A press conference is scheduled for Thursday at 1 PM a The Wolff in San Antonio to announce the deal. Padres general manager Kevin Towers will be in attendance.

The official press release from the Padres:

The San Diego Padres announced today that they have entered into a two-year Player Development Contract with the Double-A San Antonio Missions of the Texas League through the 2008 season. Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Grady Fuson made the announcement. "We are truly honored and excited about this opportunity to bring the Missions and the San Diego Padres together," said Fuson. "This is a major move for us in becoming part of this historic city and franchise."

San Antonio has been a member of the Texas League since the league's inception in 1888. The Padres will be the 10th affiliate of the club with the most recent being the Seattle Mariners from 2001-06. The Missions are part of The Elmore Sports Group, a leadership company that includes a total of six professional baseball teams, one of which is San Diego's Single-A Northwest League affiliate in Eugene.

"Having had an opportunity to meet with ownership, I am very excited to enter into this partnership with the Missions," said Padres CEO Sandy Alderson. "We have had a successful relationship with The Elmore Sports Group with our club in Eugene and look forward to our expanded association." The Missions have made their home at Nelson Wolff Stadium since the park was built in 1994. The stadium has 6,200 fixed seats and a grass berm in left field that can seat about 3,000. The Wolff features 14 luxury suites and a 500-person picnic area down the right-field line.

"As a member of one of the best Double-A leagues (Texas League) in minor league baseball, I am excited to have our players develop in such a competitive environment," said Padres Executive Vice President and General Manager Kevin Towers. "To me, San Antonio is a big league city. I have always been fond of the area, the ballpark and the historic nature of San Antonio, which provides a great venue for the organization and fans looking to travel and watch our minor league players."

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