The Final Inning...

An aerial vew of Bowen Field in Bluefield, which has served as the home ballpark of the Appalachian League Bluefield Blue Jays, Bluefield College, sometimes Bluefield State College, Bluefield High School and Graham High School. 

BLUEFIELD — A lot of senior baseball players in the Two Virginias didn’t get to play their final inning of high school baseball this past spring. Bluefield Baseball Club is doing what it can to see that they get one.

The Final Inning, which will be a special exhibition baseball game open to no cost to recently-graduated high school senior baseball players, will be conducted at Bowen Field at Peters Park in Bluefield on Saturday, August 1.

Open registration for the event will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sponsor of the event is Bluefield Baseball Club, which currently remains affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays’ Appalachian League franchise.

“This is for all area high school seniors that did not get a chance to have their senior year. We’re going to provide a venue for them to play those final innings. We’ll take them right up to the day of the event, “ said Bluefield Blue Jays General Manager Rocky Malimasura, who came up with the idea for The Final Inning.

 “They need to come to the ballpark on August 1 at 10:30 in the morning with their uniform and hat and gloves and bats. We’ll have registration here and we’ll have several local area coaches that are going to help me out and we’re going to get some baseball,” Malimasura said.

 The 2020 Appalachian League season has, of course, been cancelled along with all minor league baseball. Earlier this summer, a Bases Loaded high-school age summer baseball league started making use of otherwise-idled Bowen Field, playing multiple games during the week. The league championship will be played August 13.

 Physical distancing and COVID-19 protocols will be in effect during The Final Inning, but spectators will be allowed.  Light concessions will be available at the ballpark.

“It’ll be a chance for parents to get that great photo op,” Malimasura said.

Evidently, lots of graduated senior players and parents are eager to get that chance. Since the event was announced, the regional response has been impressive, generating interest far beyond the boundaries of what most folks think of as Four Seasons Country baseball. 

“We have players that have called from North Carolina. From Abingdon (Va.), Beckley, Oak Hill, down in McDowell and Wyoming County. We’re going to have players from everywhere,” Malimasura said.

 The pool of players that show up on August 1 will be divided equitably into two squads, Malimasura said.  There will be no live pitching — a fact which will make the entire ballgame a lot less complicated than it might otherwise be. 

“We’re probably going to use a pitching machine to kind of even things up,” Malimasura said. “It will be a shortened game depending on how many kids we have. Right now it looks like we may already have 20 to 25 kids.There will be a blind draft by position.  Everyone will get an opportunity to play.”

Fortunately, few and far between are high school pitchers who aren’t also part-time position players. Nobody will get left out.

“I’ve watched most of our [local] kids all the way from little league on up. For them not to get that opportunity was just killing me. Once Virginia opened up enough where we could hold this event ... I saw where they were doing something like this in New Jersey and I thought that’s exactly something we need to do right here,” Malimasura said. “We needed to give back to the community and get these kids out there for that last shot.”

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