River Bandits move to Advanced-A as Kansas City Royals affiliate


Clinton LumberKings, Burlington Bees left out, but say baseball will be back in 2021

The Quad Cities River Bandits will be moving one step closer to the major leagues, announcing Wednesday that they will be been promoted from Single-A to Advanced-A baseball as a Kansas City Royals affiliate for the 2021 season.

Rascal in Royal

The team will be receiving a long-term Player Development License from Major League Baseball sometime in the next two weeks. Unlike previous affiliations, the Bandits’ agreement with the Royals will last at least five years.

“Moving up to Advanced-A and securing a long-term affiliation with the Kansas City Royals will be the best thing to happen to baseball in the Quad Cities since the renovation of Modern Woodmen Park” said River Bandits owner Dave Heller. “Having Advanced-A baseball in the Quad Cities means the players who come through our ballpark are markedly more likely to reach the major leagues. It’s a higher level of play, with better pitchers and better hitters and more experienced players. And there is no better organization in baseball than the Kansas City Royals, no one with whom we would rather affiliate. Dayton Moore, J.J. Picollo, Scott Sharp – they are the best. They do things the right way, treat people the right way. And they have a proven record building a World Series Champion.”

The Quad Cities franchise joined the Midwest League in 1960. The affiliation with the Royals marks a return to having a Midwest-based MLB parent club. In addition to the Royals, the team’s major league affiliates have included the Milwaukee Braves (1960-1961), Los Angeles and California Angels (1962-1978, 1985-1992), Chicago Cubs (1979-1984), Houston Astros (1993-1998, 2013-2020), Minnesota Twins (1999-2004) and St. Louis Cardinals (2005-2012).

Meanwhile, the Clinton LumberKings and Burlington Bees have been left without affiliates, two of only 11 full-season franchises across the country.

“We knew in November 2019 that we were on the list of 42 teams under consideration to lose its Player Development Contract under the new player development system MLB is implementing for 2021,” said Ted Tornow, LumberKings General Manager. “Today’s announcement by MLB confirms our traditional relationship with MLB is changing.”

The LumberKings were the longest-tenured club, and only remaining Charter Member, in the Midwest League.

“We have been doing extensive work and are considering several options for the future of the LumberKings franchise,” said Tornow. “We will announce our plans for the franchise in the very near future, but our great fans can rest assured that there will be baseball played at NelsonCorp Field in 2021 and beyond. We are working with MLB on making sure that Clinton has baseball in the future. We will have a different relationship with MLB moving forward.”

The LumberKings were affiliates of the Miami Marlins the past two seasons, only one of which was played due to the pandemic, of course. Before that, Clinton was partnered with the Seattle Mariners.

“MLB’s announcement, while disappointing, does not signify the end of baseball in Clinton,” said Tornow. “We want to thank our loyal fans for all of their support and encouragement since the news broke that we may lose affiliated ball in Clinton. We know what this team means to this community and we look forward to coming back better than ever in 2021.”

The Bees posted a statement on social media:

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