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Fans, businesses react as MLB proposes to eliminate Minor League teams

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (WVVA) — A new proposal by the MLB is threatening the future of 42 Minor League Baseball teams across the country.

The Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) between Major and Minor League teams expires at the end of the 2020 season.

Recent reports have raised eyebrows in our community — naming the Bluefield Blue Jays and the Princeton Rays as teams that could lose their Major League ties.

“I can’t imagine a summer in Bluefield without baseball,” said season ticket holder Doris Sue Kantor, “I’ve been going to baseball games since I was a child, my father had a box at Bowen Field.”

Kantor has since carried on the tradition — having a box herself, and attending home games throughout the summer.

“Baseball has been a part of my life and the life of a lot of people in Bluefield for years,” she said, “It would be a disaster if we didn’t have baseball here.”

Aside from the emotional connection to baseball in our area, eliminating the teams is also a concern to local businesses.

“We get a lot of people who come here in the summer because they want to see baseball,” said Kitt McCarthy, owner of the Bluefield Inn, “It’s such a nice draw for the area.”

“There was a gentleman staying with us a couple nights ago who’s relocating here. One of the things that convinced him that he wanted to move here was the ballpark, because he’s a huge baseball fan,” she said. “I’m not real thrilled, I think it’s going to hurt us. We’ve been very resilient here, but its not a positive thing at all.”

Regardless, baseball fans remain hopeful.

“I just hope and pray that somehow we’re going to be able to keep the Blue Jays here and keep minor league baseball as part of our community,” Kantor said.

Jeff Disibbio, President/CEO of The Chamber of Commerce of the Two Virginia’s released a statement, telling WVVA:

“Our community is saddened by the thought of Major League Baseball discontinuing the teams in Mercer County. The ramifications of this decision will have a ripple effect that will be felt by many of our local businesses that are Chamber of Commerce members. The negative economic impact to our area could exceed $10million annually, which would be devastating to our local businesses.”

Minor League Baseball also responded, saying:

“Minor League Baseball is committed to trying to save the Appalachian League as it is an important step in the development and maturation of young players. The long history of Appalachian League baseball is an integral part of those host cities and contributes significantly to the quality of life for the citizens of Appalachia.”

Senator Shelley Moore Capito spoke out, saying:

“Minor league baseball has become a part of the fabric of many West Virginia towns. I have stressed to both Major League and Minor League Baseball my hope and encouragement to work together and also with the impacted communities and franchises. We have to communicate openly and honestly to understand the proposals and impacts fully.”

Senator Joe Manchin followed by saying,

“I will do everything I can to protect minor league baseball in West Virginia because many of these teams have been pillars of the community for decades. I’m contacting everyone I know in the MLB to ask them to consider the consequences of scrapping our local teams. Our national pastime has a rich history in West Virginia, and for generations, minor league baseball has brought our communities together and introduced countless youth to the sport. They need to understand the negative economic impact that this will have on our communities and that West Virginians have a true love for the game.”

WVVA will continue to follow this story as it develops.

Jade Burks

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