After a long wait, the Braves announced this afternoon via their official Twitter account that they have begun a partnership with the Carolina Mudcats of the Carolina League to serve as the organization's advanced-A affiliate.
I mean, look at that logo. How can you not love this?
The Braves broke their four-year partnership with the Lynchburg Hillcats, which served as the team's high-A club from 2011-2014. The Braves' brass was reportedly less than enthused with the Hillcats' facilities, so they decided to break their player development contract with Lynchburg (which later signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians) and search elsewhere.
Things got dire for a bit, as two other potential high-A partnerships for the Braves in Myrtle Beach and Daytona were snatched up by the Cubs and Reds, respectively. This left the Braves with two options: either woo the Mudcats and stay in the Southeast, or be forced to move out west to the...problematic...California League with either the High Desert Mavericks or the Bakersfield Blaze. After the Mariners signed with the Blaze, it became clear that the Braves would either end up at 3,000' of elevation in the California desert with the Mavericks, or end up with Carolina.
Fortunately, the Braves were able to come to an agreement to stay in the Southeast with Carolina, and the Rangers were relegated to High Desert. The Mudcats, who were formerly affiliated with the Cleveland Indians from 1987-2014 (before 2012, they were known as the Kinston Indians), are based in Zebulon, North Carolina, part of the Research Triangle Metro Area, near Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. The Mudcats are part of the South Division of the league, along with the Salem Red Sox, Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs), and Winston-Salem Dash (White Sox).
The Mudcats play at Five County Stadium, a 6,500-seat stadium which was built in 1991 and extensively renovated in 1999. This facility, while not brand new, was good enough to be used for the double-A Southern League for over 20 years, as the Mudcats previously played in the Southern League as a Reds affiliate. It certainly isn't a state-of-the-art facility, but it's an upgrade over the 4,000-seat Calvin Falwell Field in Lynchburg, which was built over 70 years ago.
The Mudcats should be able to draw solid crowds of Braves fans who live in the area. They'll have a bigger fan base to draw from than Lynchburg, a much smaller metro area, did. Most importantly, the Braves didn't end up having to place an affiliate in the California League, which would've been inconvenient and difficult from both a logistical and a practical point of view.
The team's deal with the Mudcats is a two-year deal, which seems to indicate that the Braves aren't thrilled about being there. It isn't a bad arrangement, but the Braves own all of their other Minor League affiliate teams, and they're probably looking to do the same in advanced-A ball.
The Mudcats and @Braves announced a 2-yr PDC agreement today. There will be a press conference on Thursday, 10/2/14 at Five County Stadium.— Carolina Mudcats (@CarolinaMudcats) September 29, 2014
Nonetheless, just be happy that the Braves didn't end up in the Cal League. That would've been a disaster.