The Dodgers Double-A affiliate Tulsa Drillers added to their ownership group on Thursday, with local businessman Arlo DeKraai buying a minority stake in the minor league team.
Drillers majority owners Dale and Jeff Hubbard will continue to run the day-to-day operations, the team said in a statement, with president Mike Melega and the current management team remaining in place.
With COVID-19 wiping out the 2020 minor league season, the Drillers had no affiliated games to host. The team salvaged some of the loss of 70 home dates by hosting a collegiate league last year, fielding a team with the same name for 15 home games. In addition, ONEOK Field was used as an early-voting site in the November election.
From Barry Lewis at Tulsa World, the decision by the Drillers to bring on a new owner was accelerated by last year’s economic downturn:
“The Hubbards and I have maintained this personal relationship since we built it (ONEOK Field),” DeKraai said. “I think that timing just worked with the economic downturn and they needed some financial stability, and they have always wanted some local ownership aspect. It probably wouldn’t have happened if COVID had not been here.”
The Drillers have been a Dodgers affiliate since 2015, and the plan is to continue for at least the next 10 years. In Major League Baseball’s restructuring of the minor leagues, major league teams in December each invited four affiliates — one Triple-A team, one Double-A team, and two Class-A teams.
The next step for the invited minor league teams is to review and accept professional development licenses for a 10-year term. As J.J. Cooper reported at Baseball America, “The 120 teams have until Feb. 10 to decide whether to sign the PDLs and become part of MLB’s new minor league system, or decline and forge their own path.”
Once those licenses are finalized, minor league schedules for 2021 will soon follow.
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