The Iowa Cubs begin their 33rd year as an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night when they host the Memphis Redbirds in their Pacific Coast League opener. It is one of the longest running affiliations in all of minor league baseball. “It’s been a great relationship and certainly geographically it fits pretty well,” I-Cubs general manager Sam Bernabe says. Bernabe believes Des Moines provides a facility for the team that is “second to none.”
Only two triple-a franchises have been with their parent club longer. Omaha has been affiliated with the Kansas City Royals since 1969 and Pawtucket has been with the Boston Red Sox since 1973. The Chicago Cubs have one of the top ranked farm systems and Bernabe says fans in Des Moines should see the results this season. “I belive we are ranked in Baseball America’s top five minor league systems right now out of the 30 teams,” Bernabe says. He says this year they will start to see top young prospects start to move through the system and impact the look of the Chicago Cubs over the next five or six years.
As the city of Des Moines changes day baseball is becoming more popular. The I-Cubs have six weekday noon games on the slate in the month of April. He says there are a huge number of people working and now living in the downtown area and he says it’s a benefit to have day games.
Bernabe says success at the minor league level is a combination of marketing and promotions. “The business model here is safe, clean and fun. If it’s not safe and it’s not clean, then you don’t have to worry about it being fun because the fans aren’t going to come anyway,” Bernabe says.
There is one franchise change in the PCL this season. The San Diego Padres have moved from Tucson, Arizona to a new stadium in El Paso, Texas and will be called the Chihuahuas. Bernabe says Nashville is getting ready to build a new ballpark, but that is the only other big change on the horizon in the league.