DETROIT -- The Toledo Mud Hens just celebrated their 25th season as the Triple-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. With the new extension to their affiliation agreement announced Tuesday, they'll be able to celebrate a 30th.
The new deal keeps the Mud Hens as the top level of the Tigers' farm system through 2016. It continues one of the longest-running relationships between a Major League club and a Triple-A affiliate.
"The Mud Hens represent everything a Major League organization looks for in an affiliate relationship," Tigers director of Minor League operations Dan Lunetta said in a release, "and this is and has been a perfect fit for each other for many years, and we now look forward to continuing our partnership beyond next season.
"Toledo is an integral part of our player development program, and the fan support we receive clearly plays a role in the decision to remain in Toledo. We couldn't be more appreciative of the support we receive in the Toledo community, and we will continue to focus our efforts on bringing a championship back to Toledo."
The Mud Hens have two International League Governors' Cup titles under the Tigers' watch, having won in 2005 and '06, and two other playoff berths. Just as important, they've sent a good amount of young talent through Toledo in recent years. Thirty-three players who were part of the Tigers this year were former Mud Hens, including slugging outfielder Brennan Boesch, high-strikeout reliever Al Alburquerque, superutilityman Don Kelly, second baseman/outfielder Ryan Raburn and young starter Rick Porcello.
Tigers top prospect Jacob Turner spent the last half of his season with the Mud Hens before finishing out the year in Detroit. Depending on the Tigers' plans, he could begin next season back in Toledo before getting his long-term shot in the Tigers' rotation. Fellow pitching prospect Andy Oliver spent the season in Toledo.
The Mud Hens, in turn, have become one of Minor League baseball's great success stories over the last 10 years at Fifth Third Field in downtown Toledo. A team that once struggled to draw fans in its old home has sold out 297 games over the last decade while attracting 5,676,221 fans, including 549,438 this past season.
"The benefits to the Mud Hens are numerous in terms of the quality of individuals and players signed by the Tigers to play in Toledo," Mud Hens chairman Mike Miller said in the release. "We look forward to continue this strong relationship, as do our fans."
The Mud Hens have been part of the Tigers' family since 1987. Only the Braves, Royals, Red Sox and Cubs have had a longer relationship with their Triple-A clubs, and the Braves' affiliate moved from Richmond, Va., to Gwinnett County, Ga. during that time.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.