PULASKI, Virginia - With the 2016 Appalachian League season just weeks away, residents of the New River Valley are as excited as ever to see the Pulaski Yankees back in action. Since owner David Hagan bought the team in 2015 and became affiliated with the New York Yankees many changes have been made to Historic Calfee Park. William Hale, a lifelong baseball fan and resident of Pulaski, said that before the Yankees arrived in Pulaski, he would go to "a couple of games" each year, but the atmosphere has changed drastically since the Yankees became Pulaski's team. He went on to say that Calfee Park is "great for Pulaski" and he is excited to see people from all over Southwest Virginia attending games and spending money in the Town of Pulaski. Throughout his time living in the town, he said he is used to seeing people from Pulaski leaving to spend money elsewhere, but is thrilled about people coming from other communities to spend their summer nights in Pulaski. "It's been a long time since I've seen people in Pulaski County with Radford Bobcats shirts on, with Floyd shirts on, with Fort Chiswell shirts on," said Hale.
Despite all the improvements and upgrades to the stadium, Calfee Park retains its small, hometown feel. Area resident Meredith McGrady, who used to run the adopt-a-player program for the team, said she likes that the ballpark has a "small, family kind of atmosphere and you can just go hang out with the people you know." Meredith and her neighbors in Pulaski are looking forward to their regular summer activity being back in action, saying, "We plan vacations around [games], we plan everything around baseball season."
Pulaski fans of all ages are ready for this season to begin. Lifelong fan and resident John Rupe says that he is excited to be going to games again to see quality baseball, but also in large part due to the social aspect. "The ballpark turns into a social gathering," John said when asked what he was looking forward to this season. John has been watching baseball at Calfee Park since 1969 and said that he had never seen the town this lively until the renovations last season, quoting the famous line from Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come."
Not only can fans look forward to seeing a newly renovated ballpark for the second straight year, but also a highly competitive team. In 2015, the Yankees claimed the best record in the Appalachian League and made the playoffs before losing to the Princeton Rays in the first round. Fans were excited about the playoff run and are hoping for another extended season in 2016. The Yankees have yet to learn their roster, but fans are already excited to "see who the Yankees will be sending here and to see the roster," according to Hale.
Fans have waited a long time for this season to roll around and to see games at Calfee Park again, but the wait is almost over. The Appalachian League season begins June 23, and the Yankees have a home series against the Danville Braves to start off the year. Pulaski will be at home June 23-25 before heading on the road to take on the Kingsport Mets. No matter which aspect of the season fans are most excited for this year, Calfee Park and the Pulaski Yankees have something for everyone and have certainly had a tremendous effect on the town in recent years.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.