The team's nickname, "Smokies", refers to the Great Smoky Mountains mountain range which permeates the region; mountains in the chain are often clouded in a hazy mist that often appears as smoke rising from the forest.
Prior to 2005, the Smokies were the Double-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals and before that the Toronto Blue Jays. However, when the Cardinals purchased the El Paso Diablos, which had been the Arizona Diamondbacks' Double-A affiliate, the Diamondbacks retained the Smokies as their new Double-A affiliate. On September 21, 2006, the Chicago Cubs, who had previously had a Double-A affiliation with division rival West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, reached a two-year player development contract with the Smokies through the 2008 season. The contract was renewed before the 2011 season and will run through the 2014 season.
The team was based in Knoxville and called the Knoxville Smokies for many years before moving and changing its name prior to the 2000 season.
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