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Dodgers purchase stake in Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City

The Dodgers will begin play in the American Northern Division of the Pacific Coast League in 2015.

Dodgers co-owner Peter Guber will be executive chairman and managing director of the club's new Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City
Dodgers co-owner Peter Guber will be executive chairman and managing director of the club's new Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Dodgers on Wednesday made official a change of Triple-A affiliate to Oklahoma City beginning in 2015. The club is part of a group that has reached an agreement to purchase the Oklahoma City RedHawks from Mandalay Baseball Properties LLC, of which Dodgers co-owner Peter Guber is a partner.

Guber will be executive chairman and managing director of the team as part of the partnership, with a pair of Mandalay executives, Paul Schaeffer and Larry Freedman as partners, running the operations of the team.

Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal reported the purchase price at "in the neighborhood of $25 million," close to the earlier reported figures, and had more information on the ownership structure of the team.

"This is an affirmation in the growing value of minor league baseball," said Dodgers CEO and chairman Stan Kasten. "When Mandalay came to us with the opportunity to own our very own Triple-A team in a major league market, which is what Oklahoma City is now, it was an opportunity too good to pass up."

The purchase agreement is subject to approvals of the Pacific Coast League, Minor League Baseball and the review of the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Kasten said he expected the purchase to be finalized within a couple of weeks.

On Tuesday the Dodgers officially ended their partnership with the Albuquerque Isotopes, their Triple-A affiliate for the last six seasons. The Dodgers were also affiliated in Albuquerque with the Dukes for 38 years, including nine years (1963-1971) as a Double-A team and 29 years (1972-2000) in Triple-A.

The Dodgers' move is not only 545 miles east, but also roughly 4,000 feet closer to sea level, making for a less hitter-crazy environment in Oklahoma City than in New Mexico. Dodgers head of player development De Jon Watson acknowledged the difference as a factor in evaluating players, but also praised the facilities at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, built in 1997, but remodeled in 2014.

"The playing surface is immaculate. They do a tremendous job here, watching from afar, to make the working relationship with their major league team first class," Watson said. "We want to be in the best place that minor leagues have to offer, and as from a development standpoint this is one of the best places to truly evaluate and send our players."

With no red in the Dodgers' color scheme other than uniform numbers, it seems logical that the team name might change from the RedHawks, its name since 1997 after 36 years as the 89ers. But such a change to the team name and/or uniforms would happen down the road, after the sale has officially closed.

"There are still steps in the process," said current RedHawks president and GM Michael Byrnes. "We need to take a look at it. I think it's important. It's an iconic brand, and it would be foolish to not associate ourselves with it in a very close manner."