Official MiLB Affiliate of the UK – The Shortlist

*Update* Five is a bad number. Eight is better. Eight means a bracket. *Update*

As if we aren’t already far enough down a rabbit hole here as UK based baseball fans, we’ve hatched a plan to take it to the next level.

We all hug our own team’s prospects, but we’ve decided that we should find a way for UK fans of all teams to place rivalries aside and hug a single group of budding young superstars. For those who aren’t regular followers of the MiLB, the teams are nothing if not enterprising in their pursuit of new fans (fancy dress, theme nights and gimmicks are de riguer) – so we hope that they’ll take to the UK connection and tip us their cap.

Earlier this week we asked followers to nominate teams, and engaged in some chat with a few teams. We’ve drawn up a shortlist ‘using science’ which we’ll be discussing in this week’s podcast with the MiLB Podcast’s intrepid traveller Benjamin Hill.

Once we’ve heard from Ben, we’ll put it to the vote and cover the team all year; hopefully with their engagement!

Here are the runners and riders:

Daytona Tortugas

League and Level: Class A Advanced Florida State League

Affiliation: Cincinnati Reds

2016 Record: 76-61 (Tied 3rd)

Notable Players: Javy Baez, Jorge Soler

Why them? Sunny Florida is the go-to destination for many holidaying Brits, and Daytona has great sporting heritage through its world famous race track. The Tortugas play at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, named for the city’s role in the great man’s passage across the colour line. They also made a very strong bid for the crown, claiming they’d been chosen already over on Twitter!

Binghamton Rumble Ponies

League and Level: Class AA Eastern League

Affiliation: New York Mets

2016 Record: 63-77 (5th)

Notable Players: Angel Pagan, David Wright, Big Hank Owens

Why them? Binghamton, in upstate New York, is America’s ‘Carousel Town’ – hence the ridiculous (and brand new) moniker for the local team. Not only have they seen most of the Mets’ current greats (and Big Hank Owens) they’re also home to two of GB Baseball’s hottest prospects – lefty pitcher PJ Conlon and Bahamian outfield speedster Champ Stuart.

Durham Bulls

League and Level: Class AAA International League

Affiliation: Tampa Bay Rays

2016 Record: 3rd

Notable Players: Chipper Jones, David Price, Ben Zobrist, James Shields, Big Kev Costner (as Crash Davis)

Why them? North Carolina’s belle city has a rich and long baseball history; they’ve been around the minor leagues since the early 1900s. They’ve also been a veritable farm for their parent Rays in recent years, but are best known for their ties with the infamous Kevin Costner vehicle ‘Bull Durham’, one of the baseball cannon’s best known films. They boast local bard and Mountain Goats genius John Darnielle as a fan, and that’s better than you even know. Do they need the UK, though?

LeHigh Valley Ironpigs

League and Level: Triple A International League

Affiliation: Philadelphia Phillies

2016 Record: 85-58 (2nd)

Notable Players: JA Happ, Ryne Sandberg (Manager)

Why them? Allentown, Pennsylvania’s Ironpigs name plays on their home in the heart of the US rust belt – Allentown was the home of their steel rail business. More importantly their mascot is called Pork Chop and one of this year’s theme nights is a ‘Bacon vs Tacos’ night with the Californian Fresno Grizzlies – I mean, look at those bloody hats! Britain’s signature breakfast butties want this team in their corner…

Salt Lake Bees

League and Level: Class AAA Pacific Coast League

Affiliation: Los Angeles Angels

2016 Record: Unknown

Notable Players: Some good ones, in order: Howie Kendrick, Torii Hunter, Mike Trout, Jered Weaver

Why them? Of all clubs contacted during our Twitter musings, the Bees were amongst the most enthusiastic. They also have a funky mascot, play in one of the minors most beautiful parks in Salt Lake City’s Smith’s Ballpark and use the catchphrase ‘honeyball’. Plenty to like, unless you’re a cynic- and aren’t we all here in the UK?

Sacramento River Cats

League and Level: Class AAA Pacific Coast League

Affiliation: San Francisco Giants

2016 Record: Unknown

Notable Players: Sonny Gray, Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Barry Zito

Why them? The River Cats were the only club to respond to our Twitter call with a gif, and that counts for a lot. Oh, and they have GB Baseball’s most likely MLB call up in 2017 in lefty reliever Michael Roth (NB: not the German Europe Minister, politics fans) as part of their roster. Plenty to like here.

Erie Seawolves

League and Level: Class AA Eastern League

Affiliation: Detroit Tigers

2016 Record: 62-79 (4th Place, Western Conference)

Notable Players: Nick Castellanos, Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander, Drew Smyly, Andrew MIller

Why them? So look at that conveyor belt of Gods for a start. The Seawolves legitimately have a claim to be the best talent producers on this list. They also once had Omar Infante and that hasn’t held them back. More pressingly their mascot is a wolf in a pirate costume named C. Wolf. We are all about the puns here. Oh, and their big promo this year is an ‘Alternative Facts Night’, the promo for which is #lovelystuff

Montgomery Biscuits

League and Level: Class AA Southern League

Affiliation: Tampa Bay Rays

2016 Record: Unknown

Notable Players: Scott Kazmir, Evan Longoria, Kevin Kiermaier

Why them? Another place to a Rays affiliate. I’m as happy as you are. That said, the Biscuits have claim to some of the quirkiest branding in the minor leagues and are mascotted by an actual biscuit named Monty. I mean, that’s if your definition of biscuit is some fiendish savoury eaten with gravy and a side of ‘grits’, whatever they are. Your author, proud Cumbrian that he is, prefers a Carr’s of Carlisle Table Water, bone dry by preference. Down with this buttery rubbish.

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