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Report: Asheville Tourists Not On List Of Teams That Could Lose MLB Affiliation

Matt Bush
Blue Ridge Public Radio

The Asheville Tourists baseball team is reportedly not at risk of losing its Major League Baseball affiliation.  That's according to a New York Times report which listed 42 minor league teams that MLB is looking at severing affiliations with as the league ponders a drastic reconstruction and contraction of the lower minor leagues following the 2020 season.  

There are seven levels of minor league baseball - Triple-A, Double-A, High Single-A, Low Single-A, Short Season Single-A, Rookie Advanced, and Rookie League.  The Tourists play in the Low Single-A South Atlantic League, a full season league with 14 teams.  What MLB is reportedly negotiating with Minor League Baseball as first reported in October by Baseball America is eliminating the Short Season Single-A and Rookie Advanced leagues.  Most of the 42 teams listed in the New York Times report hail from those leagues.  That would mean roughly a quarter of current minor league teams would lose their major league affiliations.

Reasons for the move include increasing efficiency in player development, and improving facilities.  The Tourists play in one of the oldest stadiums in use in the minor leagues, McCormick Field, which first opened in 1924.  It was extensively renovated in the 1990's.  While Asheville was not on the list of teams in jeopardy of losing their Major League affiliations, five an hour or so north of the city up Interstate 26 in East Tennessee were - the Elizabethon Twins, Greenville Reds, Johnson City Cardinals, Bristol Pirates, and Kingsport Mets.  All play in the Appalachian League, a short season Rookie Advanced league.  Other teams on the list, including the Chattanooga Lookouts in the Double-A Southern League, would conceivably be replaced by teams that won't lose their major league affiliations from the other leagues that are slated to be eliminated. 

The Tourists have been affiliated with the Colorado Rockies since 1994.  Team president Brian Dewine said in an email to BPR that he's unable to comment on the negotiations between Minor League and Major League Baseball, but that he's "confident the Tourists will remain in Asheville for years to come." 

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.