Sunset — or sunrise?

The field lights at Bowen Field are turned on at sunset during an Appalachian League Baseball game, in Bluefield.

BLUEFIELD — The Appalachian League is gone. Beginning in 2021 a new wood bat league in partnership with Major League Baseball and USA Baseball  is expected to replace it — the Appalachian League.

 Both Bluefield Baseball Club and Princeton Baseball Association officials have confirmed that they expect to have teams in the reconfigured league. All of the 10 original Appalachian League towns are expected to participate. The teams will have new locally-chosen names and  team colors that will reflect the communities in which they play.

The Appalachian League is one of the leagues being cut from minor league baseball as MLB reduces its minor league footprint from 160 affiliated teams to 120.  It was widely expected that 2020 would be the Appalachian League’s final season, but even that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday afternoon, Major League Baseball and USA Baseball announced that they will disclose details of the new format of the league Tuesday at noon in a video conference.

“The event will detail the plan to retain high-caliber baseball in the communities where it is currently being played under the Appalachian League brand while bringing new, modern approaches to player development and exciting partnerships and opportunities for teams, fans and communities,” said the release.

What is expected to rise in the old Appy League’s place is a baseball league comprised of top-level college players from across the United States who under new NCAA rules will be allowed to accept compensation to play in the league. The 10 teams will compete in an eight-week season. 

Local officials, who were previously dismayed at the loss of minor league baseball, have expressed overwhelmingly positive reactions to the new development. 

More details will be available in Sunday’s edition of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

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