Northwest Arkansas Naturals
|Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Founded in 2008
|Minor league affiliations|
|League||Texas League (2008–present)|
|Major league affiliations|
|Current||Kansas City Royals (1995-present)|
|Previous||San Diego Padres (1976-1994)|
|Minor league titles|
|League titles||1987, 1992, 1999, 2010|
|Division titles||1987, 1989, 1992, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2006, 2009, 2010|
|Nickname||Northwest Arkansas Naturals (2008-present)|
|Previous names||Wichita Wranglers (1989-2007)
Wichita Pilots (1987-1988)
Beaumont Golden Gators (1983-1986)
Amarillo Gold Sox (1976-1982)
|Ballpark||Arvest Ballpark (2008-present)|
|Rich Products Corporation|
|General manager||Eric Edelstein|
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are a Minor League Baseball (MiLB) team based in Springdale, Arkansas. The team is member of the Texas League, and serves as the Double-A affiliate to the Kansas City Royals. They relocated to Springdale from Wichita, Kansas, in 2008. They were previously known as the Wichita Wranglers. The team also had previous incarnations as the Amarillo Gold Sox and Beaumont Golden Gators.
The Naturals play at Arvest Ballpark. The facility is located at the intersection of 56th Street and Watkins, and was completed in early 2008.
The Wichita Wranglers had struggled with low attendance numbers and an aging Lawrence-Dumont Stadium throughout Bob Rich, Jr.'s 18-year ownership of the team. In 2006, he sought a move to Springdale, Arkansas, contingent on a citizen vote to approve financing for a new stadium.
The pro-baseball movement in Springdale had counted on the support of the Rev. Ronnie Floyd, influential pastor of local megachurch First Baptist Church of Springdale. In June 2006, Floyd abruptly pulled his support after he discovered that the team would serve alcohol at games, making professional baseball a contentious and evenly-split issue in Northwest Arkansas. The July vote on a measure to extend a one-cent sales tax to raise $50 million for the stadium passed by only 15 votes.
The team's nickname plays off the state's nickname as the "Natural State," as well as the Robert Redford film, The Natural. The name was chosen after receiving 33 percent of the votes in an online fan poll, beating second-place choice "Thunder Chickens" by six percent (Springdale is world headquarters for Tyson Foods, a supplier of poultry products).
The Rich Family owes much of its baseball success to the Redford film. In 1983, Bob Rich, Jr. bought the Class AA Buffalo Bisons, who had suffered low attendance the previous season, for $100,000. That year, Hollywood producers approached Rich about filming scenes of The Natural at Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium. Following the release of the film, local interest in the team rose and attendance at the Bisons' games nearly tripled. Rich was then able to finance the Bisons' move to the Class AAA American Association. In something of a coincidence, the AAA Bisons were formerly the Wichita Areos, meaning Rich has purchased two different teams which have played previously in Wichita, Kansas.
Play as the Naturals
The Naturals share an intrastate rivalry with the North Little Rock-based Arkansas Travelers. The winner of the season series between the two teams earns the Diamond Series Cup. The Naturals captured the cup in 2008, winning the season series 18-14.
The two teams met in the first round of the 2008 Texas League playoffs, as the Travelers won the first-half title in the North Division and the Naturals won the second-half title. Arkansas swept the series 3-0 to advance to the final.
The Naturals would continue to have early success, advancing to the playoffs in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, the Naturals would win the North Division title, only to lose in the Texas League Championship Series to the Midland RockHounds. In 2010, the Naturals would sweep the first and second half titles, won the North Division title for a second straight year and avenged their loss to Midland in 2009, winning the Texas League title in a 3-1 series victory over the RockHounds.
On June 8, 2008, pitcher Jeff Fulchino became the first former Natural to play in Major League Baseball, throwing a scoreless inning in relief during a 6-3 Royals loss at Yankee Stadium. Carlos Rosa, another former Natural, has also pitched in relief for the Royals.
Arvest Ballpark was designed by HOK Sport of Kansas City, Missouri. It cost $33 million to build, while the rest of the $50 million approved by Springdale voters will go toward road and infrastructure improvements. The stadium seats 6,500, but additional berm areas allow a maximum capacity of about 7,800.
Northwest Arkansas Naturals roster
|Omaha Storm Chasers||Northwest Arkansas Naturals
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