Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

June 10, 2014

Bluefield has produced numerous major leaguers — with mixed results

BLUEFIELD — Literally thousands of athletes have arrived as prospects since professional baseball began in Bluefield in 1937, but only a select few have ever reached the major leagues.

Some became immortals (Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken Jr.), while others were perennial All-Stars (Don Baylor, Bobby Grich). At least one manager (Joe Altobelli) won a World Series, while another became a highly successful general manager (John Hart).

At least five Bluefield products are currently in the major leagues, including Kevin Pillar (Blue Jays. .229, 8-for-35)), who played in Bluefield in 2011, along with a quartet of former Orioles, including Pedro Florimon (Twins, .108), Zach Britton (Baltimore, 3-0, 0.83 ERA, 5 saves), Scott Rice (Mets, 1-2, 5.93 ERA, 32 games) and Jim Johnson (A’s, 3-2, 6.46 ERA, 2 saves).

Pillar is the latest to reach the big leagues. The first Bluefield product was Vic Sorrell, a pitcher and manager, who was in Bluefield from 1938-1940. Johnny Gooch also played with Pittsburgh in 1921, and later arrived in Bluefield as a catcher and manager in 1942.

There have been plenty of lesser known products, most of whom played for the Bluefield Orioles, who had at least a taste of the major leagues, including Napoleon Calzado, who was 1-for-5 in four games with Baltimore in 2005, Drungo Hazewood, who was 0-for-5 in six games in 1980 and Mike Darr, who pitched one game during Toronto’s inaugural season, posting a 33.75 ERA in a losing effort.

Ryan Minor (Bluefield, 1996) replaced Cal Ripken, Jr. to end the longest consecutive games streak in baseball history in 1998.

Professional baseball has been played in Bluefield since 1937, with the exception of 1956. That is 86 years of baseball, and counting.

The 2014 Appalachian League season will begin for the Bluefield Blue Jays on Thursday, June 19, against the Johnson City Cardinals at Bowen Field.

Using “From Bluefield to the Big Leagues” as a guide — which can be found on the Bluefield Blue Jays website — here is a look at a few of those players who spent at least some portion of their professional careers in Bluefield, either as a player or manager.

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