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The Pensacola Blue Wahoos are the top franchise in Double-A baseball, winning the coveted Bob Freitas Award for 2016, the team’s first year of eligibility.

The awards, presented by Baseball America magazine at baseball’s annual Winter Meetings this week, recognize the long-term excellence of one franchise at each level of minor league baseball. Named for Bob Freitas, a longtime minor league baseball operator and promoter who passed away in 1989, criteria for the award include community involvement, long-term business success, and consistent operational excellence.

Franchises aren’t eligible for the award until after their fifth year of existence, a milestone the Blue Wahoos passed this year. The Wahoos — the Double-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds — began play in the Southern League in 2011 after owner Quint Studer purchased the Carolina Mudcats franchise and moved the team to Pensacola.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by Baseball America as the top franchise in Double-A baseball,” said team president Jonathan Griffith. “This award is a huge testament to great ownership in Quint and Rishy Studer and Bubba Watson, along with our staff who share our mission to improve the quality of life for the people in the Pensacola area.”

The Freitas award is just the latest in series of accolades received by the team since its opening season five years ago. The Wahoos received Ballpark Digest‘s Organization of the Year award in 2012, and the team’s waterfront ballpark has repeatedly been recognized with top honors, including BaseballParks.com’s Ballpark of the Year award in 2012, Stadium Journey‘s Best Minor League Ballpark Experience award in 2013, and Ballpark Digest’s Best Double-A Ballpark award earlier this year.

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