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Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp Get Minor League Boost To Triple-A

Fans enjoy a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp home game during the 2019 season.
BILL BORTZFIELD / WJCT NEWS
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Fans enjoy a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp home game during the 2019 season.

The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are moving to the top tier of Minor League Baseball (MiLB).

The team announced Wednesday that they were extended an invitation by their affiliate, the Miami Marlins, to move up to the Triple-A level beginning in the 2021 season.

The move is part of a realignment of the landscape of MiLB, with many teams changing affiliations, leagues, or being eliminated from the MiLB altogether.

“There are several communities, even throughout our region, and throughout the country, that are losing their minor league affiliation,” said Jumbo Shrimp owner Ken Babby.  “So we know how important minor league baseball is to so many communities, and certainly what it means to those of us here in Jacksonville.”

Babby said the term between the Marlins and the Jumbo Shrimp is set for 10 years.

The team cites Jacksonville’s population growth over the past decade as a reason for the promotion.

The Marlins Triple-A affiliate for the 2020 season, the Wichita Wind Surge, will now be bumped down to Double-A, while changing affiliations from the Marlins to the Minnesota Twins.

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos, who spent the last two seasons as an affiliate of the Twins, will now become the Double-A affiliate of the Marlins.

Many minor league baseball players make a final stop in Triple-A before going to the Major League level, giving Jumbo Shrimp fans the opportunity to see more high-profile players in the early stages of their careers.

This isn’t the first time Jacksonville has hosted a Triple-A team. From 1962 through 1968, the former Jacksonville Suns were the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, before the team was relocated to Norfolk, Virginia.

The home of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
Credit Bill Bortzfield / WJCT News
The home of the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp was funded by the Better Jacksonville Plan.

Former Mayor John Delaney anticipated the possibility of Jacksonville's MiLB team growing to the point of being moved to Triple-A.

When voters approved the $2.2 billion Better Jacksonville Plan in 2000, it included $34 million to replace the old Wolfson Park with what is today called 121 Financial Ballpark, which was designed with Triple-A baseball in mind.

Delaney lobbied taxpayers to approve a sales tax hike that included the ballpark, the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, and a host of other projects.

"Our model was Camden Yards [home of the Baltimore Orioles], and I like it better because it’s smaller and cozier. I love just sitting in the doggone thing,” Delaney, the incoming interim president of Flagler College, told WJCT News partner The Florida Times-Union.

Current Mayor Lenny Curry said in an email to WJCT News, “It truly is a testament to the community support received by the Jumbo Shrimp that has routinely seen 121 Financial Ballpark full of fans throughout the spring and summer. I am thankful to the Marlins for their commitment to Jacksonville and applaud Ken Babby and the Jumbo Shrimp staff for all they have done to earn this promotion."

In a news release, the team said it would be releasing its 2021 schedule “shortly.”

- WJCT News' Bill Bortzfield contributed to this report.