While we wait for more news on the Crawdads 2021 campaign, we wanted to look ahead to the teams that we will likely be squaring off against in the years to come. Some will be familiar to the Crawdads while others will be starting new division rivalries with the team. We are still waiting for the confirmation of the league structure, but for the purpose of this article, we are going off the assumptions that we have heard.
The Crawdads have become quite friendly with the Asheville Tourists, Greenville Drive, Greensboro Grasshoppers, and Rome Braves from their recent history in the South Atlantic League together. The teams will all be making the jump up to the new-look High A league. In fact, the High A structure has been shaken up so much that the only team in the Southern contingent that was previously a High A team is the Winston-Salem Dash. The Dash, who have been in the Carolina league since 1945, and the Crawdads, who had exclusively played in the SAL since their inception in 1993, have never played each other.
The rumored Northern group of teams in the new yet-to-be-named High A League include the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Kentucky), Aberdeen IronBirds (Maryland), Brooklyn Cyclones (New York), Jersey Shore BlueClaws (New Jersey), Hudson Valley Renegades (New York), and the Wilmington Blue Rocks (Delaware). The BlueClaws are the only ones moving up to High A that were recently members of the South Atlantic League, although the last time the Crawdads faced them, they were known as the Lakewood BlueClaws. The Hot Rods franchise was founded in 2001 in Wilmington, North Carolina as members of the South Atlantic League. The team struggled to find their footing there and, after a year, moved to Georgia for a time until they moved to Bowling Green for the 2009 season. Following that season, they transferred to the Midwest League so the Crawdads only ended up traveling to southern Kentucky once (they split the four-game series). The Blue Rocks had played in the Carolina League since being founded in 1993 while the IronBirds, Cyclones, and Renegades will be making the transition from a short-season team to a full season one for the first time in their history. The Crawdads will be meeting the teams for the first time in 2021.
For many years, the Crawdads closest rival was Kannapolis at 58 miles away. The Cannon Ballers are remaining a Low A team so the Winston-Salem Dash will take over the title of the closest division opponent. From ballpark to ballpark, the Dash are actually 5 miles closer than the Tourists in Asheville.
The Crawdads’ history with Asheville and Greensboro goes back to the ‘Dads inaugural season. Over the past five seasons, the Crawdads have had the advantage against both teams. The ‘Dads are 20-18 against Asheville in the regular season and swept them in a best of five series to win the 2015 league title. The team has seen much more of the Grasshoppers during that time, posting a 49-44 record.
Due to scheduling quirks, the Crawdads haven’t played host to the Drive since July of 2017; although they have made the trip down to Greenville five times since then. The oddities of the South Atlantic League schedule extend to the Crawdads recent history with the Rome Braves, as well. The Crawdads last visited Rome in July 2016. The Crawdads played them in Hickory in April 2017 and again in May 2018 but haven’t seen them since. The Drive and Braves had both been in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division while the ‘Dads played in the North, so that contributes to the limited playing time. The teams are all expected to be in the Southern part of the league together so they should likely face each other more in the coming years.