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Doyle begins second professional season next month

By Bob Madison - For the Chronicle | Apr 16, 2021


SHEPHERDSTOWN — Professional baseball has a different look here in 2021. There is a more bare-bones approach to the whole business side of the sport. Across the country, there are 42 cities and towns that no longer can send singers out to the bleachers to wax eloquent about propping their feet up, grabbing a cold beer and singing about a warm evening in “the cheap seats.”

Those 42 towns no longer have a minor league franchise for their baseball fans to crowd into and enjoy the standard baseball fare — hot dogs, peanuts, a cold soft drink or even local delicacies like crab cakes, soft pretzels or nachos laced with jalapeno peppers.

Gone now are the Hagerstown Braves and the Frederick Keys that were within easy riding distance of Shepherdstown. Hundreds of miles away in the state of West Virginia both Bluefield and Princeton lost their age-old franchises while the Morgantown Black Bears are still in existence.

Major League Baseball sought to economize its dealings with the minor leagues. Instead of having as many as seven or eight minor league outposts, each Major League team has only four teams (not counting Rookie League teams in Florida or Arizona).

And instead of challenging fans with night games in early to mid April, the seasons have been laid out with games beginning in early to mid May.

Outfielder Brenton Doyle, a former player at Shepherd for three collegiate seasons, will be one of those influenced by the conservative bents of the Major League franchises.

Doyle, who will turn 23 in May, was signed to a $500,000 bonus contract by the Colorado Rockies in June 2019. He was selected in the fourth round of that summer’s free agent draft.

The Rockies had minor league affiliates across the map that summer, and Doyle was sent to a Pioneer League team located in Colorado to begin his professional baseball journey.

After a freakish injury where he was hit in the head with a foul-ball, line drive while standing in his dugout, Doyle missed three weeks of the 2019 season.

When he returned in late July, there seemed to be no ill effects from the head injury.

The 6-foot-3, 200 pound outfielder went on a virtual tear for the rest of the season, which ended in September.

Helped by a torrid hitting streak in late August and the early September playoffs where he had a five-hit game as well as several three-hit games, Doyle finished his first professional season with a .383 batting average.

Not only did he hit well, but he stole bases, scored scads of runs and showed a useful throwing arm and the necessary fielding skills to play all three outfield positions.

Because of the stagnating influence of the coronavirus there was no minor league baseball attempted in 2020.

Now it’s back to baseball, but with the changes around every dugout corner and water cooler.

Colorado has minor league teams in Spokane (Indians), Fresno (Grizzlies) and Hartford (Yard Goats) that are either located in Class A or Class AA leagues.

All three of those minor league franchises won’t begin their 120-game seasons until May.

Doyle is likely to begin his 2021 season in one of those places. If he shows the progress the parent Rockies would like to see, he could be elevated from either the Class A Spokane or Fresno teams to the Class AA Yard Goats in Connecticut.

It is doubtful Doyle would be jumped from a Colorado Class A team all the way to Class AAA this season.

A player with a $500,000 investment on his business-side of the sport will be watched closely wherever he lands.

At least minor league baseball — even in its trimmed down version — has returned.

And former Shepherd athlete Benton Doyle can attempt to make steady progress toward the major leagues.