Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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August 28, 2010

AFTERNOON UPDATE: Orioles leaving Bluefield

BLUEFIELD — The Baltimore Orioles are ending their affiliation with Bluefield after 53 consecutive years of minor league baseball at Bowen Field.

George McGonagle, president of the Bluefield Baseball Club that operates minor league baseball in Bluefield, and Appalachian League President Lee Landers said Saturday at a press conference in downtown Bluefield that they have been working with other Major League teams to find an immediate replacement for the Orioles and keep a Bluefield team in the Appy League.

Tripp Norton, assistant director for player development with the Baltimore Orioles, read a statement from the organization’s president of baseball operations, Andy McPhail, to begin the press conference.

“While it’s extremely difficult, we believe the decision to end our affiliation with Bluefield is in the best interest of the franchise, moving forward,” Norton read.

“The history of Orioles baseball is not complete without Bluefield, and we have enormous respect and gratitude for the club and the community that helped launch the careers of legends such as Cal Ripken Jr. and Boog Powell.”

Norton added his own comments. “It’s been really, really great. The way this community has treated our players (and) opened your homes and your hearts to them, that’s really an important part of our player development process,” he said.

He said the Orioles have seven minor league affiliates in the United States and decided to reduce that number. “We’re going to cut back to just having just Aberdeen (Md.) in the New York-Penn League, and Sarasota (Fla.) in the Gulf Coast League,” he said.

McGonagle is already at work on a replacement for Baltimore. “We met with a club yesterday, in Bluefield,” he said. “It’s something we don’t want to jump at real quick. Of course, the decision will be made by the board of directors” of the Bluefield Baseball Club.

“It’s been a week that I’d rather not have had,” McGonagle said.

Bluefield mayor Linda Whalen said, “Certainly we’re very disappointed and sad that they (the Orioles) feel they have to end their relationship with Bluefield. .... I know the Bluefield Baseball Club has done everything it can to make the program successful for many, many years.”

For more on this story and other news and sports, check the Sunday edition of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

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