Division champions highlight 2017 event

Rangers and Indians guarantee playoff contenders for 2nd straight year

It's slated to be another American League showdown as H-E-B Big League Weekend officials announced the American League Central Division Champion Cleveland Indians will face off against the American League West Division Champion Texas Rangers March 17-18 in San Antonio.

SPRING TRAINING IN SAN ANTONIO -- This will be the fifth year for H-E-B Big League Weekend, a two-game Major League Baseball exhibition hosted at the iconic Alamodome in downtown San Antonio. Attendance has averaged more than 60,000 fans per weekend over the first four years of the event.

Ryan Sanders Baseball, whose principal ownership group includes Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, produces the event in partnership with the Texas Rangers, the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau and the San Antonio Missions.

"We made a commitment to the City of San Antonio, H-E-B and all our other event partners that we would bring in the best teams possible every year," said Big League Weekend Executive Director J.J. Gottsch. "With the Indians and Rangers both clinching division championships, we couldn't feel better about the 2017 matchup."

This will be the second straight year that both H-E-B Big League Weekend teams were previous year division champions, and the third straight year that at least one club was a division champion. The only year that at least one H-E-B Big League Weekend club was not a previous year playoff representative was in 2014, after the Rangers lost a tie-breaking 163rd game against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013.

GOING BACK-TO-BACK -- For the third time in franchise history, the Texas Rangers have successfully defended their American League West Division Crown. The team previously captured back-to-back division championships in 1998-1999 and in 2010-2011. Overall, the 2016 pennant marks Texas' seventh A.L. West Championship.

OFF TO A GOOD START -- Texas Rangers manager Jeff Banister has transformed the club into one of the top teams in the American League over the last two seasons. After a late surge sent the Rangers into the playoffs in 2015, Banister's squad has spent the majority of the 2016 campaign with the best record in the American League Banister is just the third individual to guide a team to a division title in each of his first two seasons as a major league manager since the start of three-division play in 1994, joining Bob Brenly and Ron Gardenhire.

PICKING UP POWER -- The Texas Rangers acquired DH Carlos Beltran and C Jonathan Lucroy just before the 2016 trade deadline. In their first two months with the team, the two sluggers are both batting near .300 while combining for 16 home runs and 58 RBI. 

BELIEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians captured their first American League Central Championship since 2007 this season. The pennant marked the franchise's eighth division title, as well as the team's first trip to the playoffs since American League Wild Card Game in 2013.

BETTER THINGS TO COME? -- The 2016 A.L. Central title marks Indians manager Terry Francona's second division championship. His previous title, with the Boston Red Sox in 2007, resulted in a World Series Championship. Francona also took the Red Sox to the playoffs as a Wild Card team in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009.

ALL THEY DO IS WIN -- Cleveland has already guaranteed a winning record for the fourth straight season, the longest such streak since posting eight consecutive records above .500 from 1994-2001. This also marks Francona's 12th straight winning season, the longest of any active MLB skipper.

ALL-STARS SHINING BRIGHT -- The Indians sent three players to the 2016 MLB All-Star Game - SS Francisco Lindor, RHP Corey Kluber and RHP Danny Salazar. Two Rangers made the trip to San Diego for the mid-summer classic, OF Ian Desmond and LHP Cole Hamels. 

BIG LEAGUE CROWDS, BIG LEAGUE FUN -- Over 75,000 fans packed the Alamodome when the Rangers hosted the San Diego Padres in the inaugural Big League Weekend games in 2013. It was the first baseball event in the building's 20-year history. In 2014, The Silver Boot rivalry kicked off in San Antonio as the Rangers took on their in-state rival Houston Astros. In 2015 the Los Angeles Dodgers faced the Rangers in the two-game exhibition, and last year the Alamo City hosted the defending World Series Champion Kansas City Royals and Rangers.

MORE THAN A GAME -- In addition to the two games each year, there are several other events surrounding the weekend that make it special for any baseball fan. Some events include the Big League Weekend Fan Fest, a sports collectible show and post-game concerts on the field.

BIG NAME DINNER -- One event that has now become a tradition with the weekend is the Kings of the Diamond Dinner that takes place the night before the first game. The dinner, hosted by Nolan Ryan, has included Lou Brock, Gaylord Perry, Pete Rose and the Royals George Brett last year. Information on next year's dinner, including guests, sponsorships and ticket purchase, will be announced at a later date.

SPRING BREAK IN SAN ANTONIO -- "Every March is an exciting time to come to San Antonio, and it's wonderful that H-E-B Big League Weekend is returning to add to that experience. In addition to baseball, the five-time World Champion San Antonio Spurs will be in action, along with season openings at SeaWorld San Antonio and Six Flags Fiesta Texas as part of the great attractions and events for which our city is known. San Antonio needs to be on everyone's Spring Break plans for 2017!" said Casandra Matej, Executive Director of the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Tickets for H-E-B Big League Weekend go on sale Friday, October 28th at 10:00 a.m. (CST) at www.bigleagueweekend.com. For more information fans can also go to Facebook.com/SABigLeagueWeekend or @SABigLeagueWeekend.