Emily Allen Published

Bluefield Blue Jays, Princeton Rays Part Of New College Wood-Bat Format In 2021

A white leather baseball on a grass field on a sunny day

Minor League Baseball detailed plans on Tuesday to reformat its Appalachian League to a summer “wood-bat” program for emerging college freshman and sophomore athletes.

The 10-team “Appy League” encompasses Virginia, North Carolina and both Princeton and Bluefield in Mercer County, where the Rays and the Blue Jays play respectively. Officials for the league, Major League Baseball and USA Baseball said in a statement the teams will drop their names and current logos before the new season begins next summer. “To mark this moment, all of our clubs will go through rebranding, creating names and logos that are unique to their cities,” Appalachian League President Dan Moushon said during a virtual press conference. “So in 2021, every Appalachian team will have its own identity.”

The league said that it’s identifying more than 300 college-level players for the new format. They’ll play a 54-game regular season and an annual all-star game.

“I think we settled on something pretty special here,” said Morgan Sword, executive vice president of finance and operations for Major League Baseball. “Fans are going to get to see top prospects right in their own towns. Communities are going to see an influx of new revenue opportunities. Players are going to receive state-of-the-art training, visibility to our scouts and educational programming that’s designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes.” There was anxiety earlier this year that the Minor League would end its Appalachian League, which dates back to 1911 and has held more than 30 teams throughout its existence.

Both U.S. Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, and Joe Manchin, a Democrat, thanked the baseball leaders during Tuesday’s press conference. “Today’s announcement is great news for Bluefield and Princeton, and frankly for anyone who enjoys watching our nation’s game in a West Virginia summer,” Capito said later in a written statement. “Through this new arrangement, our communities will host the premier baseball players in the country, giving West Virginians a chance to see baseball’s future stars before they reach the big leagues,” Manchin said in another subsequent release.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.