South Bend Silver Hawks seeking new affiliate


The Silver Hawks are looking for a new dance partner.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have been the team's major league affiliate for the past 17 years, but the Silver Hawks are now shopping around.

Joe Hart, president and general manager of the Silver Hawks, says he'd prefer finding an affiliate closer to South Bend. The Diamondbacks have been great to work with, he says, but there's not much of an Arizona fan base in town.

It's time to see what else is available, he says. The Silver Hawks' contract with the Diamondbacks is up at the end of 2014, and the month of September is set aside for negotiations between minor league and major league teams.

The Diamondbacks affiliation never made much sense to Silver Hawks fan Shane Wirt.

"I think it's too far, and I don't think there's enough fans here," Wirt says.

That's exactly why the Silver Hawks are searching for a new parent team. The last and only other affiliate was the Chicago White Sox; that partnership lasted from 1988 to 1996.

Hart says he still hears about those good ol' days.

"I hear so much about the years when we were a Chicago White Sox affiliate, and people talk about that so fondly -- how you could watch our players here, and then a year or two later, you could watch them play in the Major Leagues," Hart says.

So the team is pulling out all the stops. It's planning to build a $1 million batting cage facility right outside the stadium in hopes of getting the attention of some big names in the MLB. The team hopes to break ground in October and finish the 15,000 sq. ft. cages by next April, before the season opener.

The City of South Bend gave them the go-ahead to start construction on Thursday.

"Certainly this will make South Bend a much more attractive destination for a major league affiliate," says Scott Ford, executive director of the city's Community Investment team.

So who will the Silver Hawks team up with?

"I personally would rather see the Cubs affiliation here," Wirt says.

And it could be the Cubs. Their contract with Kane County, Ill., is up at the end of the year. But the Fort Wayne TinCaps want them, too.

Hart couldn't give specifics but does say any team within 2-3 hours of South Bend would be ideal.

Shane, for one, has only one demand: "Just not the Cardinals. That's all."

The process to start "shopping" for a major league team starts Tuesday, Sept. 16, and the official decision will be made in October.

If the Silver Hawks can't get the team they want, they will stay with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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