In a big win for the cities of Bluefield and Princeton, baseball will be back in 2021. The good news was confirmed last week by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball, who unveiled a new format for the Appalachian League in which the nation’s top rising college freshmen and sophomores will take part in wood-bat play each summer in Bluefield, Princeton and the eight other towns that were home to minor league affiliates in the Appalachian League.

While many were concerned about the future of baseball for the cities of Bluefield and Princeton, the new agreement will allow both cities to retain high-level baseball for the region for the long-term under the banner of the Appalachian League. 

As part of the new plan, the league will transition from having professional baseball players to hosting some of the top collegiate players from around the United States. All 10 of the towns that were home to minor league affiliates in the Appalachian League will be part of the restructured wooden-at league that is set to begin in June 2021.

Bluefield and Princeton will both have teams in the league which will have a 54-game season wrapping up in August.

“We’re thrilled to partner with USA Baseball and all the Appalachian League communities in creating a one of the kind summer that’s going to attract the nation’s top collegiate baseball players,” Morgan Sword, MLB Executive Vice President of Baseball Economics and Operations, said.

U.S. Senator Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., both played an important role in working to ensure that baseball will continue in Bluefield and Princeton.

“This collaboration will directly benefit our two Appalachian League teams in Bluefield and Princeton, which provide many West Virginians with entertainment and family time and foster a love of the American pastime,” Manchin said.

“The announcement of this new format for the Appalachian League made by MLB and Baseball USA ensures future summer nights in Princeton and Bluefield will be spent watching our national pastime,” Capito added. “This partnership will enable the baseball tradition that has existed for decades in Mercer County to continue for many to come. I couldn’t be happier.”

We believe area baseball fans will be happy too.

Yes, it will be sad to say goodbye to the Bluefield Blue Jays and the Princeton Rays, but just think of the possibilities ahead. The players will be coming from the Power Five Conferences. That means it is likely that student athletes from both Virginia Tech and West Virginia University will be playing at Bowen Field and Hunnicutt Stadium next summer, along with players from other top colleges and universities across the nation. There also is a possibility that a few local student athletes from area colleges could also make the team, although those details are still being worked out.

The new league establishes a player development pathway for amateur baseball players in the United States, and will be an integral part of the identification and development process for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team and other future national teams, according to Major League Baseball. Appalachian League participants will receive extensive visibility to MLB Club scouts through both in-person observation and state-of-the-art scouting technology. Players will receive instruction from former MLB players and educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes.

Major League Baseball will be assisting in all areas of the league including having a yearly All-Star Game and potentially broadcasting games on the MLB Network throughout the season.

Fantastic! We applaud MLB,USA Baseball and all other entities and individuals who worked around the clock to ensure a continuation of this proud summer tradition in Bluefield and Princeton.

Not only are we retaining baseball, but also the jobs and revenue that the league brings to the cities of Bluefield and Princeton.

Although the launch of this new league is still about eight months away, it gives us hope for a brighter future. And most importantly, another summer of baseball in Bluefield and Princeton.

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