JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp are moving up.
Jacksonville’s baseball team is moving from Double A to Triple A, a move announced by its parent club, the Miami Marlins, Wednesday afternoon. It was an anticipated climb as professional baseball made significant changes to its minor league structure this offseason.
The move from Double A to Triple A means Jacksonville will have a roster of the top prospects of the Marlins. That means the Jumbo Shrimp are leaving behind the Southern League after playing there since 1970. The International League and the Pacific Coast League are the two Triple A systems. The last time Jacksonville was a Triple A team, a seven-year period in the 1960s, it played in the International League.
Jacksonville has long been thought as an attractive market for a Triple A team, especially after replacing Wolfson Park and moving into 121 Financial Ballpark for the 2003 season. That was a serious topic of conversation in the early 2000s by the city.
“We are incredibly excited about the prospects of bringing the top level of Minor League Baseball to the excellent Jumbo Shrimp fans in Jacksonville and throughout Northeast Florida,” said Jumbo Shrimp owner & CEO Ken Babby.
“This is a direct reflection of Jacksonville’s positive and expansive growth, and allows the Jumbo Shrimp to continue our long-term commitment to provide the most affordable family entertainment option on the First Coast. We are also so grateful to continue our long-standing partnership with the Marlins, whose players, coaches and staff have embraced our community for the last 12 years.”
Attendance has been on the upswing for Jacksonville, climbing for all three seasons that the team has been called the Jumbo Shrimp. The team drew 327,388 fans for 2019, second highest in the Southern League. Total attendance grew 3.2%. The Jumbo Shrimp didn’t play in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Jumbo Shrimp played in Triple A from 1962-68 when they were known as the Suns and were in the International League. They were affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets during their time in Triple A.
Future hall of famers Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Phil Niekro all pitched in town during that time. The Suns won the International league championship in 1968.
“It is an honor and endorsement of Jacksonville’s future to be selected as the new Triple-A home of the Miami Marlins” said Mayor Lenny Curry.
“We are excited to see the highest tier of Minor League Baseball here in Jacksonville, and it truly is a testament to the community support received by the Jumbo Shrimp that has routinely seen 121 Financial Ballpark full of fans throughout the spring and summer. I am thankful to the Marlins for their commitment to Jacksonville and applaud Ken Babby and the Jumbo Shrimp staff for all they have done to earn this promotion. Working with Ken and his team, we will continue to provide a top-notch experience for families at the ballpark for many years to come.”
For the Marlins, the move keeps three of its affiliate clubs in the state. Jupiter (Class A-advanced), Pensacola (Double A) and the Jumbo Shrimp (Triple A) are all in the Sunshine State.