Even though it was a foregone conclusion, the official announcement that the Cubs’ four minor league affiliates had officially signed their professional development licenses made for a positive bit of news. For Cubs Insider, the realignment of teams and leagues could be game-changing in terms of the content we can deliver this year and beyond.
As Greg Huss reported Friday, Iowa is moving to a new Triple-A league in a division more centrally located in the Midwest rather than the Rocky Mountains and West Coast of the old Pacific Coast League. Double-A Tennessee is staying in the South while Myrtle Beach is now in a Low-A division that combines the old Carolina and South Atlantic Leagues. South Bend, meanwhile, stays in the Midwest League but moves to High-A and will mostly play teams in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois.
It’s been a slow climb over the years for our minor league coverage. When I was brought on board in 2015, I was going to be the South Bend guy as part of a group that was going to cover one affiliate apiece. That lasted about a month as various other commitments served to leave me as more or less the last man standing. The trouble is that the SB Cubs didn’t frequent my neck of the woods often, so between infrequent excursions to see them and Evan Altman’s occasional “field trips” to Tennessee and Myrtle Beach, our in-person coverage was scarce.
We brought Greg Huss aboard in 2019 to help with the minors coverage and Greg brought along Jimmy Nelligan for the Growing Cubs podcast. Then, just as it seemed we were hitting a groove, the pandemic resulted in the complete cancellation of the minor-league season. But now that baseball is back on what we hope will be a normal schedule and the new leagues have all been announced, we’re ready to take off.
“Hell yeah, the I-Cubs are coming to Indy!” our Editor-in-Chief said when asked about the changes. “I think it means CI will be able to have a lot more live coverage.”
From where I live in northern Illinois, South Bend’s new assignment is like winning the lottery. I am about 40 minutes from Beloit, an hour and a half north of Peoria, and about an hour and a half from the Quad Cities. Appleton, Wisconsin and Cedar Rapids, Iowa are both about three hours away. I’m going to be able to take in a lot of games, do some interviews, and get a lot of pictures and video of the Cubs’ top young prospects moving forward.
“I loved the set up for the Cubs,” Huss said of the changes. “I’m happy for the players and gameday staff at Iowa that don’t have to put up with those awful west coast swings. I love the fact that the main Cubs affiliates remain with the organization and there won’t be new learning to do on my end.
“And when it comes down to it, I’m pumped to go to way more I-Cubs games in Columbus, Indy, and Toledo”
Growing Cubs, which to our knowledge is still the only podcast dedicated exclusively to the Cubs’ minor league system, should really get a boost this season and beyond with the new configuration.
“For me personally, it’s awesome that I can now catch the Iowa Cubs in Indy,” Nelligan said. “The players, staff, and broadcasters also benefit from less travel, and the other affiliates all stayed in the organization [with the exception of Eugene], which also is a positive for the club in terms of continuity at a time where things are in a state of constant change.”
While schedules have not been released yet, we broke news last fall that each affiliate would play one team a week to cut down on travel time and expenses. That means South Bend could be in Beloit or Peoria for six days at a time and the same could be for the I-Cubs in Columbus, Toledo, and Indianapolis. That’s a lot of games for us to see consecutively, which means more content for our readers.
Who knows, maybe Growing Cubs or The Rant Live will take to the road this summer. Everything will be on the table as long as we can get in to see the games. Now we are just waiting on those schedules to be released and for COVID numbers to keep dropping so we can begin planning our respective summers to keep you informed.