Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 17, 2013

Minor League Baseball: Bluefield, Princeton among top locales

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — While the 2013 Appalachian League season may now be over, the region is still reaping benefits from our two local teams and their loyal fan bases. A new national report released just last week is ranking the Bluefield-Princeton market an impressive 41 out of the 229 minor league sports markets across the nation.

Those 229 minor league sports markets can be found in cities both large and small, ranging from the Appalachian League to Class AAA baseball, the NBA Development League and even developmental hockey leagues. The new national rankings for the communities comes from Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal, which scored a 50.85 ranking for the Bluefield-Princeton market.

What that particular score means is the cities of Bluefield and Princeton were ranked ahead of much larger localities, including Las Vegas, Savannah, Ga., Tuscon Ariz., Birmingham, Ala., Louisville, Ky., and Greensboro, N.C. That’s an impressive accomplishment, and something for the cities of Bluefield and Princeton to certainly be proud of.

Leading the national list was Toledo, Ohio, with a 100 score. Toledo is home to the Toledo Mud Hens of the Class AAA International League in baseball and the East Coast Hockey League Toledo Walleye.

Johnson City, Tenn., was the highest rated Appalachian League market at No. 35. The Roanoke and Salem, Va., region was no. 27 and Charleston, home of the West Virginia Power,  was No. 77. Wheeling by comparison was ranked 187.

So what does this say about the cities of Bluefield and Princeton? For starters it shows that we welcome and strongly support our minor league teams. And that can be evidenced by the fact that attendance levels in Bluefield and Princeton were up by approximately 3,000 fans when compared to a year ago. This is a trend we would like to see continue when the 2014 Appalachian League season gets underway next summer.

“I feel this sends the message nationally as to the special area we live in when you consider some very viable geographic areas of the country do not have even one professional team in any sport,” Jim Holland, general manager of the Princeton Rays, said.

We agree. And the attention this national ranking will bring to the cities of Princeton and Bluefield is certainly welcomed.

We salute both the Bluefield Blue Jays and the Princeton Rays for providing our families with another excellent season of summer fun. And while our focus now turns toward fall, and our favorite football teams, we also look forward to the 2014 season of the Appalachian League. The new national rankings will give us more to build upon for next summer in terms of promoting our communities and our two minor league teams.