Northwest Arkansas Naturals

Last updated
Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Founded in 2008
Springdale, Arkansas
NWARnaturals.PNG Naturals cap.PNG
Team logoCap insignia
Minor league affiliations
ClassDouble-A (2008–present)
League Double-A Central (2021–present)
DivisionNorth Division
Previous leagues
Texas League (2008–2020)
Major league affiliations
Team Kansas City Royals (2008–present)
Minor league titles
League titles (1)
  • 2010
Division titles (4)
  • 2009
  • 2010
  • 2015
  • 2016
First half titles (3)
  • 2010
  • 2015
  • 2017
Second half titles (5)
  • 2008
  • 2009
  • 2010
  • 2011
  • 2016
Team data
NameNorthwest Arkansas Naturals (2008–present)
Ballpark Arvest Ballpark (2008–present)
Rich Products Corporation
General ManagerJustin Cole
ManagerDarryl Kennedy

The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are a Minor League Baseball team based in Springdale, Arkansas. The team is a member of the Double-A Central, and serves as the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Naturals play at Arvest Ballpark, which opened in 2008 and is located at the intersection of Gene George Boulevard and Watkins Avenue. The team relocated from Wichita, Kansas, in 2008, where they were known as the Wichita Wranglers. The Naturals were previously members of the Texas League from 2008 to 2020.



The Wichita Wranglers had struggled with low attendance numbers and an aging Lawrence–Dumont Stadium throughout Bob Rich Jr.'s 18-year ownership of the team. In 2006, he sought a move to Springdale, contingent on a citizen vote to approve financing for a new stadium.

The pro-baseball movement in Springdale had counted on the support of Ronnie Floyd, influential pastor of local megachurch First Baptist Church of Springdale. In June 2006, Floyd abruptly pulled his support after he discovered that the team would serve alcohol at games, [1] making professional baseball a contentious and evenly split issue in Northwest Arkansas. The July vote on a measure to extend a one-cent sales tax to raise $50 million for the stadium passed by only 15 votes. [2]

Team name

The team's nickname plays off the state's nickname as the "Natural State," as well as the Robert Redford film, The Natural. The Rich Family owes much of its baseball success to the film. In 1983, Bob Rich Jr. bought the Double-A Buffalo Bisons, who had suffered low attendance the previous season, for $100,000. That year, Hollywood producers approached Rich about filming scenes for The Natural at Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium. Following the release of the film, local interest in the team rose and attendance at the Bisons' games nearly tripled. Rich was then able to finance the Bisons' move to the Triple-A American Association. In something of a coincidence, the Triple-A Bisons were formerly the Wichita Aeros, meaning Rich has purchased two teams that had played previously in Wichita, Kansas.

The "Naturals" name was chosen after receiving 33 percent of the votes in an online fan poll, beating the second-place choice, "Thunder Chickens," by six percent. [3] The "Thunder Chickens" moniker was a nod to Springdale-based Tyson Foods, which is the nation's largest supplier of poultry products, and to the region's poultry industry. Every season, the team embraces the Thunder Chickens brand for a single game with matching uniforms and merchandise. [4]

Play as the Naturals

Northwest Arkansas playing against the Frisco RoughRiders in May 2017 Frisco RoughRiders vs. Northwest Arkansas Naturals May 2017 12.jpg
Northwest Arkansas playing against the Frisco RoughRiders in May 2017

The Naturals had early success, advancing to the playoffs in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, the Naturals won the North Division title, but lost in the Texas League championship series to the Midland RockHounds. In 2010, the Naturals swept the first and second-half titles, won the North Division title for a second straight year, and avenged their loss to Midland in 2009, winning the Texas League title in a 3–1 series victory over the RockHounds.

On June 8, 2008, pitcher Jeff Fulchino became the first former Natural to play in Major League Baseball, throwing a scoreless inning in relief during a 6–3 Royals loss to the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

In conjunction with Major League Baseball's restructuring of Minor League Baseball in 2021, the Naturals were organized into the Double-A Central. [5]


Arvest Ballpark was designed by Populous out of its Kansas City, Missouri, office. It cost $33 million to build, while the rest of the $50 million approved by Springdale voters went toward road and infrastructure improvements. [6] The stadium seats 6,500, but additional berm areas allow a maximum capacity of about 7,800.


Northwest Arkansas Naturals roster



  •  7 Nate Esposito
  • 38 Freddy Fermin


  •  1 D. J. Burt
  • 18 Gabriel Cancel
  • 16 Angelo Castellano
  • -- Travis Jones
  • 27 Kevin Merrell
  • 26 Emmanuel Rivera




Injury icon 2.svg 7-day injured list
* On Kansas City Royals 40-man roster
# Rehab assignment
∞ Reserve list
‡ Restricted list
§ Suspended list
† Temporary inactive list
Roster updated April 19, 2021
→ More rosters: MiLB    Double-A Central
Kansas City Royals minor league players

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  1. :: Northwest Arkansas' News Source Archived October 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  2. :: Northwest Arkansas' News Source [ permanent dead link ]
  3. :: Northwest Arkansas' News Source
  4. 'Thunder Chickens' 'Natural' fit for club | News | The Official Site of Minor League Baseball Archived April 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  5. Mayo, Jonathan (February 12, 2021). "MLB Announces New Minors Teams, Leagues". Major League Baseball. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  6. :: Northwest Arkansas' News Source [ permanent dead link ]