All the speculation that the Houston Astros would be the new MLB affiliate of the Quad Cities River Bandits turned out to be accurate.
In a press conference this afternoon, it was announced that the two clubs entered into a player development contract through the 2014 season. This is the first time the Astros have a Midwest League affiliate since the now-defunct Michigan Battle Cats were their farm team from 1999-2002.
After it was known the Astros would leave the South Atlantic League — their most recent Low-A affiliate was the Lexington Legends — many speculated that Houston would couple with Quad Cities because of their connection through Astros GM Jeff Luhnow. Prior to joining the Astros, Luhnow was the St. Louis Cardinals’ vice president of player development and scouting and thus worked with Quad Cities in that capacity.
Houston was the MLB affiliate of the River Bandits from 1993-98, during which time Johan Santana, Brad Lidge, Billy Wagner, Aaron Miles, Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, Julio Lugo and Richard Hidalgo were among the future major-leaguers who suited up for Quad Cities. (The team was known as the Quad City River Bandits back then.)
The Astros were QC’s affiliate in 1994 when the MWL franchise set its single-season attendance record of 260,471.
Another interesting Astros-Quad Cities connection comes via Houston broadcaster Milo Hamilton. The Iowa native’s first job in professional baseball was broadcasting games for the Quad City Tigers in 1950.
Now there are only two Midwest League teams left without MLB affiliates — the Beloit Snappers and the Burlington Bees. They will get either the Los Angeles Angels or the Oakland Athletics. The Angels were the MLB affiliate of the Cedar Rapids Kernels for the past 20 years. The A’s were affiliated with the Bees the past two years.