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Morgantown returns in MLB Draft League

By Bob Madison - For the Chronicle | Jun 11, 2021


SHEPHERDSTOWN — After all the debris has fallen back to earth and the franchises have been winnowed away in professional baseball, it turns out that Morgantown is one of the partial survivors.

What the Monongalia County people have left for 2021 is not professional baseball, per se, at their comfortable baseball stadium, but it should be close enough to satisfy the hungriest of fans.

Since there is no more New York-Penn League for just-starting professionals, the MLB Draft League is the next best thing, for both baseball customers and unsigned players as well.

Morgantown, with former West Virginia University player Jedd Gyorko as its manager and six Mountaineer players on the roster, has joined the six-team MLB Draft League for the summer.

When at home, the West Virginia Black Bears play their games at comfortable Mon County Stadium in Granville, which is also the home grounds for West Virginia’s Mountaineers.

It seems the hot dogs are just as tasty and the nachos and pop corn and beer just as traditional as when there was low level professional baseball in town in 2019.

The Black Bears and five rivals made up of the same draft-eligible amateur players as are on their roster compose the league.

Mahoning Valley (Niles, Ohio), Williamsport (Pa.), Trenton (N.J.), State College (Pa.) and the Frederick Keys (Md.) are the other five teams for the initial season for this type of league.

At least the team nicknames (Scrappers, Crosscutters, Thunder, Spikes and Keys) are colorful and full of cartoonish mascots.

After a stuck-in-idle beginning to its season, Morgantown and manager Gyorko have moved steadily ahead and had an unusual 5-3-3 after 11 games. It seems tie games happen in the MLB Draft League. The snake-bitten Frederick Keys, with pleasurable accommodations, have started the season with a bumpy 0-10-1 record.

Gyorko is only 32 years old, but retired from his lengthy major league career after several seasons of stints on the disabled list due to injuries. He was a productive player for San Diego and St, Louis after setting all kinds of offensive records while playing three years for the Mountaineers.

Giving WVU followers more reasons to come out to the ball park on a summer evening are six players who either performed for the Mountaineers this past winter/spring or still have collegiate eligibility remaining that will be used at WVU.

Shortstop Tevin Tucker missed the entire 2021 season with an injury, but middle infield Tyler Doanes, catcher/designated hitter Paul McIntosh, outfielder Austin Davis, pitcher Madison Jeffrey and pitcher Zach Ottinger were all members of the 25-27 record team that bowed out of the season after splitting four games in the recent Big 12 Conference tournament held in Oklahoma.

College players all retained their eligibility for 2022, because of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. If you were a freshman in 2021, you can be a freshman again in 2022.

Major League Baseball will hold its draft of amateur players this summer in July instead of June, as it did for decades. Some of the players in this league have been drafted before, but have never signed a professional contract.

It’s still Black Bears Baseball. But it’s not professional baseball per se. The surroundings can be plush compared with some now defunct minor league facilities. And the fans can more readily identify with many of the players.

The concessions and freedom of being outdoors and mask-free should bring out the people.

Baseball is back, after being sent into hibernation for the unsteady summer months of 2020.