Shorebirds Avoid Cuts, Will Remain Orioles Franchise

SALISBURY — The Delmarva Shorebirds this week survived a purge of minor league baseball teams affiliated with big league teams and will remain a part of the Baltimore Orioles organization.

For months, there have been discussions about reorganizing Minor League Baseball teams and their affiliations with their parent Major League Baseball clubs. The Delmarva Shorebirds, which for over two decades have made their home a Perdue Stadium in Salisbury as the Orioles’ Class A affiliate, were generally considered immune from the potential reorganization, largely because of its outstanding facilities and strong fan base.

On Wednesday, the Orioles extended invitations to its minor league affiliates to continue their relationship with the big-league team and the Shorebirds made the list. The Frederick Keys were not as fortunate and were not extended an invitation to remain a Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Orioles.

Instead, the Keys will continue to play baseball in Frederick as part of a six-team unaffiliated MLB Draft League that will function as a showcase for draft-eligible college players. As a result of the changes announced on Wednesday, the Norfolk Tides will remain the Orioles’ AAA affiliate, while the Bowie Baysox will remain the club’s AA affiliate.

The Shorebirds will remain the Orioles Class A affiliate, while the Aberdeen Ironbirds will become the club’s Class A-Advance affiliate, replacing Frederick. The Shorebirds announced the invitation from the Orioles on Wednesday.

“On Dec. 9, the Delmarva Shorebirds received an invitation from the Baltimore Orioles to remain their Class-A affiliate,” the club’s statement reads. “For more than two decades, the Shorebirds, Wicomico County and the Eastern Shore of Maryland have been home to the Orioles youngest stars like Trey Mancini, John Means, Adley Rutschman and many more on their journey to Baltimore and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.”

The Shorebirds for decades have been part of a consistent pipeline for young prospects to reach the major league team. Delmarva Shorebirds General Manager Chris Bitters said he was pleased the Salisbury minor league team will remain with the Orioles.

“The Orioles have been a terrific partner over the past 24 years and we appreciate their invitation to remain the Class-A Orioles affiliate,” he said.

Governor Larry Hogan took the opportunity to weigh in on the Orioles’ decision to realign its minor league affiliates and retain the Shorebirds.

“Since the club moved to Baltimore in 1954, Orioles baseball has been a way of life in the state of Maryland,” he said. “With today’s announcement affirming the club’s longstanding commitment to the region, I am as proud as ever to call myself an Orioles fan. The future of the Orioles and the game of baseball in Maryland is bright.”

Meanwhile, Orioles General Manager Mike Elias said the reconfiguration of the minor league system and the retention of most longtime affiliates will help continue the rebuilding process for the big-league team.

“We are proud to continue the Orioles’ tradition of creating baseball across Maryland and our region,” he said. “We believe the structure of our minor league affiliates will enable us to continue fortifying a robust pipeline of talent that will graduate top prospects to Camden Yards in the near future and for years to come. We are eager to continue working with our local communities as we strive to build the best player development system in baseball with an eye toward our ultimate goal of developing a championship-caliber team.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.