The Norfolk Tides are a minor league baseball team in the Triple-A International League. They play at Harbor Park in Norfolk, Virginia. Since 2007 they have been a farm team of the Baltimore Orioles; prior to that, they had a 38-year affiliation with the New York Mets.
The franchise began its history in the South Atlantic League in 1961 as the Tidewater Tides , playing at Lawrence Stadium in Portsmouth. The main newspaper of South Hampton Roads, The Virginian-Pilot, ran a contest to determine the team name. Although the chosen name was "Mariners," the Pilot's editor overruled the contest, deciding he liked the alliteration of "Tidewater Tides."
The Tides spent their first year as an "independent" team with no direct major-league affiliation, but became a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate the following season. However, the South Atlantic League decided to pull out of Virginia in 1963, threatening the future of minor-league baseball in the Hampton Roads area. A local group was able to convince the Carolina League to expand by two teams, one of them being the Tides.
In 1969, the New York Mets moved their Triple-A International League affiliate, then known as the Jacksonville Suns, from Jacksonville, Florida to Portsmouth. The team took up the Tides name and the previous owners continued to run the team under the Mets' ownership. Their first year in Triple-A ended with a pennant. At the same time, the Mets and the city of Norfolk cooperated to build the team's next home, Met Park.
The Tides won the Governors' Cup, the International League championship, in 1972, 1975, 1982, 1983, and 1985. They also had the league's best regular-season record in 1987, but lost in the playoffs. In 1992, ground was broken on the club's current home of Harbor Park, and the Tides moved into the new facility in 1993. This period was a time of change in several other ways. First, in 1992, the Mets sold the franchise to a group led by Tampa businessman Ken Young. At the time the Tides moved into Harbor Park, the team also replaced the "Tidewater" in its name with that of Norfolk, partly for marketing reasons and partly for political considerations, as the city of Norfolk had facilitated the financing and building of Harbor Park. Also in 1993, The Tides introduced their mascot Rip Tide.
The Mets and Tides ended their affiliation after the 2006 season. At the time, their 38-year association was the second longest in Triple-A, behind the Atlanta-Richmond partnership, which dated to 1966 (The Braves have since moved the Richmond club to Gwinnett County). The Baltimore Orioles announced their affiliation with the Tides in a press conference on September 25, 2006. The owner of the Tides also owns two other Orioles-affiliated minor-league clubs, the Bowie Baysox and the Frederick Keys.
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