Last August pitcher Chase De Jong became the first player in history to go from the independent league Sugar Land Skeeters to the Houston Astros in a single season.
Next year he will likely have a lot of company.
Reports unconfirmed as of press time say the Astros have acquired the Skeeters and will turn the Atlantic League franchise into a Class AAA affiliate. The news broke Monday on Twitter by Fox 26 News Director Mark Berman.
“Sources: The #Astros have reached an agreement with the ownership of the Sugar Land Skeeters to name the @SL_Skeeters their Triple-A affiliate. The Astros will also have an ownership stake in the Skeeters franchise,” he tweeted.
Other news outlets reported similar information, but both the Skeeters and the Astros declined comment Tuesday morning.
The Skeeters have long been known for having players signed to Major League Baseball contracts. Now, it appears the whole club has been signed. The Skeeters play at Constellation Field, a 7,500-seat stadium just 22 miles down Interstate 69 from Minute Maid Park.
Should the deal be finalized and confirmed, the Skeeters would become the second Atlantic League of Professional Baseball team to become affiliated with Major League Baseball this fall. Earlier the Somerset Patriots, the last original member of the league, left to become a Class AA affiliate of the New York Yankees. That leaves the Atlantic League with six teams, including the new one starting in 2021 in Gastonia, N.C.
The Skeeters were founded in 2012 and played in the Atlantic League through 2019. The league did not play this year due to the pandemic and the Skeeters created a four-team Constellation League that played all its games in Sugar Land. The Skeeters were Atlantic League champions twice – in 2016 and 2018 – and made the championship series four times in eight years.
The Astros currently own the Class AA affiliate in Corpus Christi and Class A Advanced team in Fayetteville, N.C. After dropping the Fresno Grizzlies as their Triple-A affiliate in 2018, the Astros signed a four-year agreement with the Round Rock Express. That agreement came to an abrupt end when the agreement between MLB and Minor League Baseball expired Sept. 30.
News of the pending deal between the Astros and Skeeters was welcome news to local fans.
“As a 9-year season ticket holder, this was a win-win situation for everyone,” said Louis Davis of Sugar Land. “The Astros get a location for their AAA farm team in the Houston area. Sugar Land gets the benefits it’s been wanting since it opened in 2012. If you love baseball this will allow everyone the opportunity to watch young players develop and move up to MLB. I’m looking forward to continuing to attend games.”
Charlie Plouse, who was at the opening game of the Colt 45s (before the team was renamed Astros) and saw two of Nolan Ryan’s no hitters in person, has been a season ticket holder of the Skeeters from the start.
“The greatest news, the Skeeters are going to be the Astros AAA team wow, wow! Now I get to sit in my rocker with a cold adult beverage and watch future Major Leaguers play ball! The icing on the cake,” he said.