GRANVILLE, W.Va.- The Pittsburgh Pirates and the West Virginia Black Bears today announced that they have signed a two-year extension to their Player Development Contract. This agreement ensures that the Black Bears will remain an affiliate of the Pirates through the 2020 season.
"Our partnership with the Pirates has been outstanding both on and off the field," said John Dandes, President of Rich Baseball. "Not only have they proven to be dedicated to providing our fans with a competitive and exciting team to cheer for, but have also shown great awareness to building relationships within the community around Monongalia County Ballpark. We look forward to continuing this great partnership for many years to come."
"We couldn't be more excited to extend our relationship and partnership with the Black Bears and the greater Morgantown area," said Pirates Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway. "It's such a great fit for us as an organization to be so close to Pittsburgh while also providing top rate facilities and operations. The fans are Pirate fans and it¹s a great way for them to get connected with the next wave of Buccos at the ground floor. We look forward to this partnership continuing for years to come."
The Black Bears have served as the Pirates' Short Season Single-A Affiliate in the New York-Penn League since it's inaugural season in 2015. Recognized as the 2015 Ballpark of the Year by BaseballParks.com, Monongalia County Ballpark comfortably seats 2,500 people and boasts a beautiful outfield view of the rolling hills of West Virginia. Games are well attended by the surrounding community, and the team's proximity to Pittsburgh brings many Pirates fans across state lines to check out minor league prospects with dreams of playing at PNC Park.
West Virginia has had great success in the club's first three years, including winning the New York-Penn League championship in its inaugural season in 2015. The team finished this past year with a 40-35 record, capturing a third straight winning season since relocating to Morgantown.
"We are excited to continue our relationship with the Pittsburgh Pirates for two more years," said Black Bears General Manager Matthew Drayer. "They have provided the Black Bears with outstanding talent and high-character prospects that have given their time to the Morgantown community to make it a better place to live."
The Black Bears have helped produce big-league talent for the Pirates, including centerfielder Austin Meadows, currently hitting .439 during his first stint in Pittsburgh. Triple-A Indianapolis also features infielders Kevin Kramer and Kevin Newman, both of whom spent time in West Virginia.
Notable players from last year's club having success in their promotions include pitcher Scooter Hightower and right fielder Bligh Madris. Both playing for the Advanced Single-A affiliate Bradenton Marauders, Hightower is 5-0 with a 1.10 ERA as a promising reliever, and Madris is batting .250 and has already equaled his home run total of five from last year in 70 fewer at-bats.
The Black Bears opened the 2018 season on June 15 in Mahoning Valley. The team opens the home part of its schedule at 7:05 p.m. on June 21 at Monongalia County Ballpark.
For tickets or more information on the 2018 Black Bears season, call (304) 293-9710, visit WestVirginiaBlackBears.com or stop by the ticket office at 2040 Gyorko Dr. in Granville.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.