Rangers swap Low-A affiliates

The Texas Rangers' low Single-A club will make the move from Clinton, IA, to Hickory, NC, beginning in 2009. The Rangers are returning to the South Atlantic League for the first time since their partnership with the Savannah Sand Gnats came to an end in 2002.

After six seasons of partnership with the Midwest League's Clinton Lumber Kings, the Texas Rangers are set to sign a new player development contract with the Hickory Crawdads of the South Atlantic League.

The Crawdads are located in Hickory, North Carolina. The city, which has an official population of 37,222 is located approximately 50 miles northwest of Charlotte and 90 miles southwest of Greensboro.

The club plays its home games in L.P. Frans Stadium, which was built in 1993. The stadium holds 5,092 fans and is regarded as one of the better ballparks in the Sally League. The Crawdads averaged 2,537 fans per game in 2007. For comparison, Clinton had an average attendance of 1,735 last season.

Texas moves back to the Sally League after a six-year absence. Before moving to Clinton, the Savannah Sand Gnats served as the Rangers' Low-A affiliate from 1998 until 2002.

Although there is quite a bit of travel involved in a Midwest League schedule, it does not compare to the South Atlantic League. The Crawdads share the eight-team Northern Division with the Lakewood Blue Claws [Lakewood, NJ] and the Lake County Captains [Eastlake, OH]. The two clubs are 580 and 500 miles from Hickory, respectively.

The move makes sense logistically for the Rangers due to the impending relocation of the club's High-A team, the Bakersfield Blaze. In 2010, the Blaze will move across country to join the Carolina League.

Hickory had been the Pittsburgh Pirates' Single-A affiliate since 1999. The Crawdads won two South Atlantic League titles – in 2002 and 2004 – during their 10-season partnership with the Pirates.

The Seattle Mariners will take the spot vacated by the Rangers in Clinton.

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