MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- The New York-Penn League announced its intention to relocate one of its existing franchises to Morgantown, West Virginia. The Class A Short-Season professional baseball league plays a 76-game season from mid-June through early-September. This abbreviated schedule allows a league franchise to share a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility with the West Virginia Mountaineers baseball team.
"The New York-Penn League is thrilled to announce its intent to bring a professional baseball franchise to Morgantown, W.Va., for the 2015 season," said league president, Ben Hayes. "The New York-Penn League is already established as one of the premier leagues in all of Minor League Baseball, averaging more than 1.7 million fans each season over the past decade, and by adding the vibrant northern West Virginia regional community and a top-notch facility that it would share with West Virginia University, we know the New York-Penn League will continue to reach new levels of success."
"The success of the New York-Penn League over its 74-year history is not limited to its outstanding attendance or its great facilities," Hayes added, "but is also reflected by the players listed on its club rosters. Such players have included Baseball Hall of Famers Warren Spahn, Nellie Fox, Phil Niekro, Tony Perez, Jim Rice, Robin Yount and Wade Boggs, and other great players such as Ken Boyer, Pete Rose, John Elway, Don Mattingly, Randy Johnson, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Beltran, Evan Longoria and many more."
The yet-to-be-built ballpark will be located in the University Town Centre development, and will overlook the city of Morgantown and West Virginia University from the bluff above Monongahela River. The facility would be the home of the WVU Mountaineers' baseball team, a member of the NCAA Division 1 Big XII Conference, as well as a New York-Penn League franchise affiliated with a Major League Baseball club. Four New York-Penn League clubs currently share facilities with colleges and universities. The New York-Penn League's State College franchise, for example, is affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals and manages and maintains the facility it shares with the PSU Nittany Lions baseball team, a member of the NCAA Division 1 Big 10 Conference.
"Morgantown's population, demographics and corporate community assets make it one of the best small cities in America to call home," said Pat O'Conner, president & CEO of Minor League Baseball. "The addition of a New York-Penn League club will give Morgantown yet another resource to enhance the quality of life of its citizens."
The new ballpark is expected to break ground in 2014 with a New York-Penn League club potentially playing its first game at the new facility in 2015.
The New York-Penn League -- the oldest, continuously operated Class A league in professional baseball -- was established in 1939. The NYPL currently has 14 clubs operating in seven different states. The league's 74th consecutive season of begins Mon, June 17, 2013.
MiLB president O'Conner added that, "We look forward to working with the city, county and West Virginia University in bringing Minor League Baseball to the region, so that thousands of fans can experience the affordable, family entertainment that our clubs have provided annually for more than 41 million people for the last eight years."
"West Virginia University is very excited about the interest that the New York-Penn League has in the proposed baseball park at University Town Centre," said West Virginia University director of athletics, Oliver Luck. "The legislation authorizing the ballpark and a new interchange along I-79, which was authored by Senator Bob Beach, is moving through the West Virginia Legislature, and both college and Minor League Baseball fans are hoping that we will soon be able to celebrate its approval and hear the three best words in the English language, 'Let's play ball!'"
WVU baseball coach Randy Mazey said, "If you look at college baseball in the last 20 years, every time a program has built a facility like this the program has made an immediate jump. There are so many advantages across the board from a community standpoint, from our team and all the way down to youth baseball. This is probably the single biggest baseball event to happen in Morgantown baseball history. From talking to people, I don't know if anything of this magnitude has ever affected the Morgantown baseball community like this stadium will."
Senior vice president & general manager of the NYPL's State College Spikes, Jason Dambach, said that, "The collaboration between the State College Spikes and Penn State University has been beneficial to both sides from many standpoints, most notably the ability to share operational costs in order to provide a cleaner, safer and more fan-friendly experience for the fans who attend events at the ballpark. But the real winner has been the community. Having a ballpark our size and the amenities that it offers has allowed us to open our doors to a number of charity and other special events beyond baseball games that provide both the franchise and the University with a greater opportunity to connect with the community."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.