‘The Mighty Casey’ won’t strike out this summer
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Roscoe the Rooster won’t be strutting his stuff in Princeton.
The Birdfeeder concession stand in Bluefield won’t be dispensing nachos, corn dogs or hot dogs slathered in mustard and relish.
Monongalia County Ballpark in Morgantown will be quiet and without any Black Bear baseball.
And down in Charleston, the Power and mascot Chuck won’t pause and watch the freight trains lumber by just beyond the outfield fence in left.
There will be no minor league baseball in West Virginia this summer, just like there won’t be any minor league baseball anywhere else in the country.
In Princeton, The Rays have been affiliated with Tampa Bay since 1996. The team successfully promotes a family atmosphere in its cozy ball yard. The low-slung mountains reach down almost to the grandstand behind home plate, and other mountains ring the outside of the stadium.
Hunnicutt Field is snug to the actual playing field, and comfortably seats about 1,950 people. The small-town atmosphere in Mercer County helps the populace identify more readily with the players who come from all over the world in today’s presentation of professional baseball.
With entertainment at a premium, oftentimes entire families attend games.
The concession prices are realistic for a small Appalachian town, and the variety brings wide smiles to local faces for a night of relaxation.
Princeton will miss summer baseball more than cities like Richmond, Va., Rochester, N.Y., Nashville, Tenn. and Lexington, Ky., where other entertainment can be found in the next block.
In Bluefield, the mountains also appear to swallow the stadium from all angles.
Bowen Field was erected in 1939 by Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, and has since undergone modern changes, including the addition of plastic chairback seats salvaged from Anaheim Stadium when the major league Angels upgraded their facility. Every seat located under the roof of the grandstand came from Anaheim Stadium.
The Birdfeeder is the name of the concession stand and sends its large variety of snacks out to the fans with reasonable prices.
Both Bluefield, W.Va. and Bluefield, Va. take pride in the Blue Jays, an affiliate of the Toronto big league franchise.
Like in Princeton, there is a family atmosphere, and vendors can be seen coursing through the stands taking concession orders, so the hungry can stay in their comfortable seats and see every pitch.
The West Virginia Black Bears in Morgantown fielded their first professional team in 2015, and actually won the New York-Pennsylvania championship that year. A modern-day ball yard there seats about 3,500 as an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team’s success seems to carry over to the park’s other tenant — West Virginia University. There is no real “comfy, home town” feeling as can be found in both Princeton and Bluefield, but the facility is clean and just as comfortable.
The Charleston Power is a member of the South Atlantic League and gets its players sent in from the Seattle Mariners. Long road trips to Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey and Delaware are detrimental to the players’ experiences in any summer. The crowds are never jammed into 4,500-seat Appalachian Power Park, and concession prices don’t whet the palates of many would-be cheeseburger diners.
Princeton and Bluefield will certainly miss their Mercer County rivalry. There is even a trophy that annually goes to the team that wins the most games played between the two teams.
But Roscoe the Rooster and Baby Jay, the two mascots, will have to be satisfied with contemplating the ginseng and fishing seasons here in the shaded summer of 2020.