The Orioles today announced invitations for their four full-season affiliates for the 2021 season. They have invited the Norfolk Tides to continue as their Triple-A affiliate and the Bowie Baysox to remain their Double-A team. They invited their previously short-season Single-A team, the Aberdeen IronBirds, to serve as their high Single-A affiliate and the Delmarva Shorebirds to remain as their low Single-A club.
O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias confirmed yesterday that the organization is expected to field two teams in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2021.
The Frederick Keys, an O’s affiliate since 1989, will not be with the organization for 2021. The Keys will become a member of the currently six-team MLB Draft League, a new amateur wood-bat league that will feature draft-eligible players starting next summer.
The Keys still have longshot hopes of an affiliation in 2021. They could be added by some organization if one of the 120 clubs being asked to serve as full-season affiliates turns down an invitation. The Keys also could pursue an affiliation for 2022 and beyond.
The club stated in its press release it is inviting the four teams for next year and “the communities they serve to continue as economic development and entertainment partners. The Orioles will also continue to collaborate with the community of Frederick, Md., where the club has worked with Major League Baseball (MLB) and Prep Baseball Report (PBR) to bring the MLB Draft League to Frederick residents. The MLB Draft League is the first league in the country focused on top prospects who are eligible for the annual MLB Draft.”
“Over the past three decades, the Orioles have designed and established a network of economic development partnerships in Maryland, Virginia, and Florida which have generated billions of dollars in impact returned to the public, far exceeding the initial investments made,” said John Angelos, Orioles chairman and chief executive officer. “Our partners and our entire organization are extremely proud of that track record of development, entertainment and over-delivery, and we are pleased to have successfully secured and extended the economic benefit of the Camden Yards blueprint for multiple communities into the future.
“Throughout this process, we have remained committed to retaining our decades-long presence in our state and region as we work closely with Major League Baseball to evolve and extend our system of local baseball for the benefit of players and communities around the country. This steadfast commitment to our home state, the mid-Atlantic region, and all communities where we do business will create jobs and drive commercial activity while ensuring that residents will continue to enjoy the most affordable, family-focused experience in professional sports.”
Said Elias: “We are proud to continue the Orioles’ tradition of creating baseball across Maryland and our region. We believe the structure of our minor league affiliates will enable us to continue fortifying a robust pipeline of talent that will graduate top prospects to Camden Yards in the very near future and for years to come, and we are excited to have secured a home for the MLB Draft League in Maryland as well. We are eager to continue working with our local communities as we strive to build the best player development system in baseball, with an eye towards our ultimate goal of developing a championship-caliber team.”
The Orioles now have three affiliates within Maryland.
“Since the club moved to Baltimore in 1954, Orioles baseball has been a way of life in the state of Maryland,” said Gov. Larry Hogan. “With today’s announcement affirming the club’s longstanding commitment to the region, I am as proud as ever to call myself an Orioles fan. The future of the Orioles and of the game of baseball in Maryland is bright.”
“We are thrilled that high-level baseball will remain in Aberdeen, Bowie, Frederick and Salisbury, and that these communities will be part of Maryland’s baseball landscape long into the future,” said Kelly M. Schulz, secretary of the Maryland Department of Commerce. “There is no question that this honored American pastime has a significant economic impact throughout Maryland. This isn’t just about more opportunities for our residents; the Orioles’ commitment to Maryland will continue to help attract visitors and businesses to our state. We look forward to working with the Orioles to drive commercial activity and increased excitement in Maryland as the game of baseball grows at all levels.”
Frederick Keys general manager Dave Ziedelis told me he and his club are excited to try to make the MLB Draft League a go. The team will play 68 games between late May and mid-August and will be made up of players that are college juniors and seniors who are draft-eligible.
“We’ll have players that could be with multiple future major league organizations,” he said. “We feel this is a wonderful opportunity. We’re excited now to have closure and know what we are doing, and we are continuing the Frederick Keys.”
Ziedelis added: “We’ve always communicated very well with the Orioles and we will continue to do so. We’ll continue our partnership with the Orioles in building baseball in the state of Maryland and economic impact via baseball. We are still going to be continuing that partnership and our communication and partnership with the Orioles.”