Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 8, 2014

Promotions await at Princeton Rays' home field

PRINCETON — In one week new Rays of summer will be arriving at Hunnicutt Field to catch fly balls, field grounders, hit fastballs with the goal of climbing the professional baseball ladder.

Members of the 2014 Princeton Rays are scheduled to arrive throughout the day next Sunday as the start of the Appalachian League baseball season draws near.

Jim Holland is entering his 23rd year as general manager in Princeton and as the tradition at Hunnicutt Field, the season is packed with promotions. Last season saw the creation of T-shirt Tuesday. That promo will return, there will be a visit from a very special dog, and prices will be rolled back on concessions.

“This year, once again we are going to have T-shirt giveaways. That was so popular with the fans, it’s popular with us and it’s popular with the advertisers and the sponsors,” Holland said. “Every Tuesday, plus Aug. 1 and 11, and on the last game of the year we are going to have two T-shirt giveaways on the same night — one that’s generated for kids 18 and under and one for adults.”

A promotion that will please the crowd will be the appearance of Jake the Diamond Dog, a fixture in minor league baseball for many years.

“He goes out and fetches the bat after every at-bat, takes water out to the umpires between innings and if the umpire calls for balls, they put balls in a little basket and he takes them out,” Holland said. “For us it’s going to be a back-to-back bark. We’ll have him on July 6-7.”

Another promotion that began last year was “Dollars and More Thursday” in which certain concession items were price at $1.

“We’re having the same concept this year except it is going to be Mondays and is going to be called “Dollar Madness Mondays,” Holland pointed out. “Hot dogs, corn dogs, popcorn, fountain drinks with a souvenir cup and candy bars will all be $1.”

In 1994 the Princeton Reds won the Appalachian League championship. That team will be honored on July 22 with the 1994 Princeton Reds Championship T-shirt Night. The shirts will feature the P-Reds logo and the complete playoff roster on the back of the shirt.

“It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago,” Holland lamented. “What a special team, the Cardiac Kids. They just kept rolling on.”

That team is the only Princeton squad to win an Appy League title.

A popular program at Hunnicutt Field the last few seasons has been the Kid’s Club. Holland said thanks to several fans and their hard work, children have been able to be a part of the Rays in an up-close fashion.

“The Kid’s Club looks real good. We have a couple of our fans who help me with that and they do a terrific job of putting it together,” Holland said. “Right now I think we have close to 30 members and it’s always a nice kickoff for them because we will be having an exclusive picnic for them with the players during the preseason. With the Kid’s Club membership of $20 you get into every game for free, get a T-shirt, a card on your birthday from Roscoe the Rooster and six members-only club meetings with a meal served prior to six games.”

Usually with less than two weeks remaining before opening day, Holland and staff are working at a frantic pace, but this year the veteran GM said it’s a little bit different.

“Right now we’re getting our wall signs up, getting the park spruced up, all the things that we have to do to operate a successful baseball game,” Holland said. “We’re just en route to getting that completed and at this time we are even ahead of schedule. It’s a little unusual.”

Opening Day for the Rays is Thursday, June 19 against Bristol. Bristol has a new affiliation this season, a member of the Pittsburgh organization. It was Pittsburgh who was the parent club for Princeton’s first professional team in 1988, something that is not lost on Holland.

“I think the Pirates being in the league will be an advantage to all of our clubs, especially in this area,” Holland said. “There are a lot of folks who like the Pirates as their major league team and this gives them a chance to see them in one of our ballparks in Mercer County.

“Not only am I tickled to have them in the league, I’m also tickled that they will be playing their first ever game under the name of Bristol Pirates on our field, June 19.”

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline, Twitter @bdtredd

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