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Lynchburg Hillcats are Indians new High-A minor league affiliate

Welcome to the family, Lynchburg

This is Southpaw. He likes dancing. Or maybe stretching. - PHOTO
This is Southpaw. He likes dancing. Or maybe stretching. - PHOTO

The Indians have reached a four-year player development contract with the Lynchburg Hillcats of the Carolina League, making the the Tribe's new High-A Minor League affiliate. The need for a new affiliate arose when the Indians and Carolina Mudcats did not renew their deal after the end of the season.

The Lynchburg (Virginia) team goes back to the late 1800s, though their existence was somewhat spotty until 1962, when they returned from a hiatus and became a White Sox affiliate. They were also affiliated with the Twins, Rangers, Mets, and Red Sox between then and 1995, when they became a Pirates affiliate and renamed themselves the Hillcats (prior to then, like many MiLB teams, they simply shared a name with whichever MLB team they were affiliated with). Their partnership with Pittsburgh lasted for 15 seasons, they then spent one year in the Reds' system before spending the last four under the Braves' umbrella.

The Hillcats play their home games at Lynchburg City Stadium, a 480-mile road trip from Progressive Field. That makes them the Tribe's full-season affiliate most removed from Cleveland, but puts them about as close as a High-A team can be, given that the three leagues at that level are the California, Carolina, and Florida State Leagues.

The way this sort of thing works is, the MLB team provides the on-field personal, meaning the players and coaching staff, while the MiLB ownership group provides the facilities and grounds crew, the announcers, and everyone else needed to make things run smoothly.

The Hillcats should have a very talented lineup next season, as much of the talent that reached the Midwest League Championship Series this month with Lake County should graduate to High-A, a group that includes Clint Frazier, Bradley Zimmer, and Nellie Rodriguez.