KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Professional baseball is returning to Kinston in 2017!
The Texas Rangers made the big announcement Monday that the organization has entered into an agreement to purchase controlling interest from Minor League Baseball in a new Class-A Advanced Carolina League franchise in Kinston, North Carolina.
The Kinston club is expected to join a second new franchise to be announced. The move will expand the Carolina League to ten teams starting with the 2017 season. The agreement is subject to the approval of Minor League Baseball and subject to the review of Major League Baseball.
The Rangers have unveiled a temporary logo for the franchise and announced that a new website www.KinstonBaseball.com has been launched and is now operational. The website has links for the Name the Team contest, where fans can help select a nickname for the new franchise, for 2017 season ticket information, and for Kinston Baseball and Texas Rangers merchandise.
The City of Kinston and the Rangers are hosting a free public event celebrating the return of professional baseball to Kinston on Thursday, August 25 at noon at Grainger Stadium. City of Kinston and Texas Rangers officials will take part in an on-field ceremony. Hot dogs and soda will be available, free of charge.
The Rangers will be playing at Kinston’s Grainger Stadium. It’s hosted a Carolina League franchise in all but three seasons over a 50-year span from 1962-2011.
“The Texas Rangers are very happy to be bringing baseball back to the great City of Kinston,” said Neil Leibman, Chairman of the Texas Rangers Ownership Committee. “We want to thank Minor League Baseball and the Kinston leadership for helping us to make this a reality for 2017. We are excited about creating the best fan experience possible at Grainger Stadium, and we look forward to working with the City of Kinston and its residents to make this a top Carolina League franchise.”
Professional baseball in Kinston dates back to 1921. The Cleveland Indians had their Carolina League affiliate in Kinston from 1987-2011. That’s when the franchise moved to Zebulon, NC for the 2012 season.
“Baseball has been synonymous with Kinston for many decades,” said B.J. Murphy, Mayor of Kinston.” We are very grateful to the Texas Rangers organization for bringing professional baseball back home to Historic Grainger Stadium where folks from all over eastern NC will enjoy America’s favorite pastime once again.”
The franchise will formally be Rangers Kinston LLC with the Texas Rangers owning controlling interest. Cam McRae, former majority owner of the Kinston Indians, will also be a limited partner in the group. The Rangers will be hiring a General Manager and other staff to operate the franchise on a day-to-day basis.
The Rangers are also planning a multi-year renovation project for the 4,100-seat Grainger Stadium with home and visiting clubhouse, weight room, and concession stand expansion scheduled to be completed for the 2017 season.
The Rangers’ High-A California League affiliate has been located in High Desert, CA for the past two seasons after four years in the Carolina League at Myrtle Beach, SC from 2011-2014. Prior to that time, Texas had not been affiliated with the Carolina League since having a farm club in Salem, VA in 1986. Texas had its High-A club in the Florida State League at Port Charlotte from 1987-2002 and in the California League at Stockton in 2003-04 and at Bakersfield from 2005-10.
“Baseball’s Back in Kinston” t-shirts will be available for sale at the Woodmen Community Center, 2602 W. Vernon Ave. in Kinston beginning tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. The t-shirts will also be sold on the KinstonBaseball.com website and at Thursday’s public event.