After an absence of 36 seasons, it only made sense that the San Diego Padres were the ones to plant their Class AA flag back in Amarillo.

Amarillo Professional Baseball announced Monday that it has entered into a player development contract with the Padres organization for the next two years, starting when the Amarillo franchise begins play in the Texas League in April of next year. The team will play home games at the new stadium under construction in downtown Amarillo.

It seems like a natural fit for the Padres to have their AA affiliate in Amarillo for at least a couple of reasons.

First, the Padres were the last major league organization to have an affiliate in Amarillo, as their AA team was located in town from 1976-82. Also, the San Antonio Missions, who are moving their team to Amarillo, were the Padres Texas League affiliate for the previous 12 seasons.

"We're looking at this as a long-term relationship," said Tony Ensor, president and general manager of Amarillo Professional Baseball. "We've had a great relationship with the Padres from San Antonio with the Elmore Sports Group."

The Elmore Sports Group owns the Amarillo franchise who will start play next year. A team name is expected to be announced some time in November.

A relationship with the Texas league will continue for the Padres, who have been involved with the Texas League for a total of 35 seasons.

"The San Diego Padres are thrilled to continue our partnership with the Elmore Sports Group as Double-A baseball returns to Amarillo," said Sam Geany, Padres director of player development in a news release. "We're excited to watch our talented farm system develop in a brand new ballpark and bring a Texas League championship back to Amarillo."

MLB Pipeline and Baseball America both listed the Padres as the number one farm system in baseball with eight prospects listed among Major League Baseball's top 100, including the No. 2 prospect, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.

That means there's a good chance that somebody who suits up for the Amarillo club next year will one day be playing in the majors. Ensor thinks that should be a major drawing card for the team.

"This is a talent-laden farm system that's one of the best in baseball," Ensor said of the Padres. "The fact that we have a history here is good for our ball club."

One top prospect who has made it to the Padres big club is Brad Wieck, a San Jacinto Christian graduate who made his big league debut in the final 10 days of the regular season.

Amarillo will play its first game at home on April 8 against the Midland RockHounds, an Oakland A's farm team. Ensor sees that date as a good omen.

"The first game here on April 8 is the 50th anniversary of the first Padres game in San Diego," Ensor said. "You can see all the stars aligning."

Amarillo is a big step on the ladder for Padres prospects on the way to San Diego. The next level in the Padres organization, Class AAA, is located to the west in El Paso, the last stop before going to the big club, which is situated near the beach.

In that regard, Amarillo fits neatly into the organization's chain of progression.

"It's going to take place in one of the most beautiful stadiums in minor league baseball," Ensor said. "It makes for a nice regional commitment. I'm thinking that there are going to be some Padre fans in Amarillo."