It didn't take Seattle Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto long to pick a new home for Seattle's Class AA minor league franchise.
After expired player development contracts led to the end of the Los Angeles Angels' affiliation with the Arkansas Travelers and the Seattle Mariners with their former Class AA home in Jackson, Tenn., Dipoto said he knew he wanted a team in the Texas League. He was the general manager of the Angels from 2011-15 and made frequent trips to North Little Rock for Travelers games.
"For us, one of the things we really aspired to was to play in the Texas League with affiliates of the teams we play against day in and day out all year long," Dipoto said. "And I was just so familiar with the facility and the people here. Whatever we need, they always provide, and hopefully we'll do the same for them to help them put a good product on the field."
Dipoto was in Little Rock on Thursday to speak at the Travelers' annual hot stove banquet at Robinson Auditorium.
Travelers President Russ Meeks said his team's former connection with Dipoto was an asset.
"It just worked out well," Meeks said. "We met with some of their people to be sure that they wanted to come here. We thought it was a good idea, and that's basically how it came about, but primarily it was done because the contacts we had with Jerry.
"We have a lot of confidence in him, and he has a lot of confidence in us. He wanted to be here. He loves Little Rock, he loves our staff, our fans, and he knows we're going to give a 100 percent effort for our players to put them in a big-league setting at a minor-league level."
Dipoto said he appreciates the similarities between the Travelers' setting in North Little Rock and the Mariners' operation in Seattle.
"It has a small-town feel, but there are a few more amenities than you see in many towns at the minor-league level," Dipoto said. "When you're talking about the Double-A level, the guys are now starting to get close to the big leagues. They're a call away. There'll probably be more than one player on the Travelers in 2017 that plays for us in Seattle before the season's through, so we want them to experience something a little closer to what the big-league lifestyle is like rather than be tucked away."
The Travelers and Seattle announced Sept. 20 that the 2017 Travelers would play as a Mariners' affiliate.
"We always kept in the back of our minds that we wanted to be affiliated with the Travelers," Dipoto said. "Knowing maybe a little more than most in my position about the people here and the agreement in place, it became a very easy match."
Sports on 01/20/2017