The Washington Nationals announced the signing of a two-year player development contract extension with the Hagerstown Suns of the Single-A South Atlantic League on Tuesday. The extension, which begins in 2017, runs through the 2018 season. Nationals president of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo, Nationals vice president and senior advisor to the general manager Bob Boone, assistant general manager and vice president of player personnel Doug Harris and director of player development Mark Scialabba made the joint announcement.
"We are pleased to extend our player development contract with the Hagerstown Suns, a relationship we have had now for nine-plus years," Rizzo said. "The Suns play an integral role in developing the next wave of talent to advance through our system. Some of our best players have spent time learning how to play the game the 'Nationals Way' while in Hagerstown. We're glad to continue our working relationship with them."
"Hagerstown has been a tremendous partner of ours," Harris added. "From being Bryce Harper's first professional home, to helping players like Wilmer Difo flourish, to raising the current wave of young talent impacting our organization at the big league level, our relationship with the Suns has played a large role in our overall success."
The Nationals began their relationship with Hagerstown in 2007 after ending a six-year run with the Savannah Sand Gnats. The Suns are 669-620 (.519) since aligning with the Nationals, including three consecutive 80+ win seasons and three straight playoff berths from 2012 to 2014. In 2014, the Suns reached the South Atlantic League finals before falling to the Asheville Tourists. That season, Difo, who is currently on the major league roster, was named the South Atlantic League's Most Valuable Player.
The Suns went 43-27 (.614) to claim the South Atlantic League Northern Division title in the first half of the 2016 season, clinching a spot in the postseason. To date, they boast the best record in the South Atlantic League at 71-49 (.592).
"We are very pleased with our partnership with the Washington Nationals," Suns general manager Travis Painter said. "We look forward to continuing our relationship for years to come."
Since 2007, the Hagerstown Suns have played a role in the development of current big leaguers such as Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Reynaldo Lopez, Sammy Solis, Pedro Severino, Wilmer Difo and Brian Goodwin, among others. Hagerstown also serves the organization as a destination for players to complete rehab assignments before returning to Washington's active roster.
The current version of the Hagerstown Suns began in 1992 as an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays and has been a member of the South Atlantic League for all 24 seasons. The Suns reside in the South Atlantic League's seven-team Northern Division with Delmarva, Greensboro, Hickory, Kannapolis, Lakewood and West Virginia.
The Nationals' Single-A affiliate is just 70 miles north of Washington, D.C., allowing for convenient travel between the major league club and the affiliate.