ROUND ROCK, Texas (FOX 26) - The Round Rock Express and Houston Astros announced on Thursday that the teams have reached a four-year agreement that will return the Astros Triple-A club to Round Rock.
The announcement was made during a ceremony at Dell Diamond. Round Rock served as the Astros Double-A affiliate from 2000 until 2004 and then as its Triple-A affiliate from 2005 until 2010. The Astros Triple-A affiliate had been based in Fresno during the last four seasons (2015-18).
“This will be a great partnership for the Astros and the Express in a variety of ways,” said Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan. “We now have our two highest minor league affiliates back in Texas, which is great for our fans and, logistically, for our Major League club when promoting players. And, it should be a big plus for the Express on the field as well. As an organization, the Astros take a great deal of pride in our player development process, the results of which can be seen with the success of our minor league clubs and by our Major League club."
The Express were founded as a Double-A franchise in 2000 by Ryan Sanders Baseball, a group made up of Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, his sons Reid and Reese, Houston businessman Don Sanders and his sons, Bret and Brad.
“On a personal level, this is certainly an exciting day for our family as well,” commented Reid Ryan. “We have made so many great memories in Round Rock with the Express over the years. From all the work that went into bringing a minor league club to Central Texas to the championships won along the way, this city and this team will always hold a special place in our hearts.”
"This is a great day for all Central Texas baseball fans,” said Express chief executive officer Reese Ryan said. "The Astros have been a big part of our family and this area for a long time. We’re excited to partner with them once again as we get ready for our 20th anniversary season at Dell Diamond.”
Since Jim Crane purchased the Astros following the 2011 season, the Astros have built and maintained one the finest minor league systems in all of baseball, under the direction of Jeff Luhnow, the team’s President of Baseball Operations and General Manager. Five of the Astros minor league affiliates qualified for the postseason in 2018, including their Triple A club at Fresno. The Astros also boasted the second-highest combined minor league winning percentage in baseball this season. That success in player development has had translated to success in the Major Leagues as well as several of the Astros current big league players were drafted and/or developed in their minor league system.
During its first stint in the Houston organization, Round Rock enjoyed great success in its five-year Texas League affiliation, reaching the playoffs four times and winning the 2000 Texas League Championship. After joining the PCL in 2005, the Express posted a then-franchise-best 85-59 record en route to capturing their first-ever American Conference Championship.
After the new PDC agreement was announced in front of over 700 season ticket members, sponsors and media tonight at Dell Diamond, the Express also unveiled a new brand identity that included a new logo and new uniforms for the 2019 season. Fans will enjoy a new “double-R” mark as well, a cattle brand nod to the Ryan family’s love of ranching. The double-R is the focal point of a new custom Express team font that fans can expect to see in 2019.
“As we enter the next era of Round Rock Express baseball, it made all the sense in the world to give our brand a refresh,” said Express general manager Tim Jackson. “On the dawn of our 20th anniversary season and our rejoining the Houston organization, we’re excited to pay homage to our original color scheme while giving our look a Major League redesign.”
The Round Rock Express kick off their historic 20th anniversary season with Opening Day at Dell Diamond on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 against the rival Nashville Sounds.