On Thursday, the Astros announced that they would enter a contract with the Round Rock Express to become the team's Triple-A minor league affiliate. The Express had been the Rangers Triple-A team since 2011. Prior to that, the Express had been with the Astros since their inception in 2005.
The move ends the four-year affiliation with the Fresno Grizzlies and brings yet another minor league franchise closer to home — the Corpus Christi Hooks is the team's Double-A affiliate.
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It seemed almost a foregone conclusion that once the Ryan family (Nolan, as an advisor, Reid, as the team president) became part of the Astros organization, the ballclub they own would eventually come back under the purview of the Astros as well. The Astros also have minor league clubs in North Carolina, Iowa, and New York.
From a baseball standpoint, it gives the team a much closer destination both for developing players and for those taking on rehab assignments from injuries. With both the Hooks and Express within 200 miles of Houston, the pipeline for talent will be much more efficient.
But, for fans, there is more to it than baseball. It feels a bit like taking back something from a team that shouldn't have had it in the first place. The Astros, unwisely, gave up Nolan Ryan decades ago, only to see him pitch well as a member of the Rangers and go into the Hall of Fame as one of their players. Now, both he and his son work for the team, and the minor league affiliate that bears the elder Ryan's nickname is back in the fold.
Operationally, it makes sense. Emotionally, it feels good. Win-win.