The Blue Jays have landed.
Late Sunday night a flock of birds came into the two Virginias from their springtime home in Florida, nesting in the clubhouse behind the first base dugout at historic Bowen Field.
For the next two-and-a-half months that group, formally known as the Bluefield Blue Jays, will make their home in Nature’s Air-conditioned City with occasional out-of-town trips in a summer ritual known as Appalachian League baseball.
Monday evening, season ticket holders, boosters, sponsors and media met the Birds of Summer at the annual Meet the Blue Jays event at the stadium.
More than 100 people were on hand to hear from Baby Jays manager Dennis Holmberg, general manager Jeff Gray, boosters president David DeHaan and each player who introduced himself and then met their host family for the season.
“I’m happy to be back in Bluefield,” Holmberg told the crowd. “I can’t impress on everybody here that your support and sponsorship goes a long, long way. Your relationships and the things you do go a long, long way and last a lifetime.”
Holmberg, returning for the third season as manager of the Baby Jays, drew a rousing approval from those in attendance when he turned his attention to the Mercer Cup series with Princeton.
“We’re going to try to get it (the Mercer Cup) back and it will be the first leg of two championships,” Holmberg said to a chorus of applause.
Following Holmberg’s remarks each player stepped forward, introduced himself and then drew from a basket a slip of paper with the name of their host family. After all the players were introduced all in attendance feasted on hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans and other goodies prepared by the staff of the Bird Feeder.
“This is great, it gets the excitement going,” DeHaan said. “As a booster family it’s good to get the players in here so we can be a part of their family and let them know what this area has to offer.”
DeHaan and his wife Karen are host to two players this season. He continued, “This is a great crowd. The weather turned out a lot better than I was thinking it would be. I was expecting rain. This is nice. It’s sunny, a big crowd, the people came out and it’s very exciting.”
Long-time Bluefield baseball supporter Henry Belcher was in game mode even though the season opener is days away.
“We’re going to win the Mercer Cup for a fact! And we’re going to win the Appalachian League championship for a fact! And you can bet your money on that,” Belcher exclaimed.
Santana Peguero, in attendance with her mother and daughter, will also be host to a pair of players this summer. A regular at Bowen Field, Peguero is happy that the Appy League season is about to begin.
“It’s good to have something to do now. It’s the best thing in Bluefield, baseball,” Peguero said. “It’s good to have it going again. I’m excited for a good year. I think we’re going to get it (the championship) this year.”
Gray, in his first year as Bluefield GM, was impressed by the turnout and the enthusiasm of the Baby Jays’ fan base.
“I think it has been great, it’s a larger crowd than I expected,” Gray said. “There are a lot of loyal fans and it’s great to see them come out and support the team here before the season starts. The weather held off and it’s a great night for the team.”
With only a couple of days remaining before the home and season opener on Thursday, Gray said there is still plenty of work to do, but things are a bit less hectic now than previously.
“I think there is more calmness now that the team is here,” Gray commented. “Now it’s really happening instead of being in the office and making calls all day. You’re actually interacting with the team, getting the team ready to go.
“When the fans come and look at the stadium, we are just trying to make them happy and provide a good experience for them. There are still butterflies, but I think they are down a little bit, but until the end of August they (butterflies) are always there.”
The Blue Jays open the season Thursday evening at Bowen Field against the Greeneville Astros. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.
— Contact Bob Redd at
The Blue Jays have landed.
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