The Times West Virginian

Sports

March 27, 2013

Field of dreams

Morgantown eager for complex, minor league team

MORGANTOWN — As its bid to get approval for funding of a new baseball stadium moved into the bottom of the ninth inning, West Virginia University went to its bullpen for its closer on Tuesday, bringing in the head of minor league baseball and the president of the New York-Penn League to deliver a familiar message — if you build it, we will come.

True, in the movie “Field of Dreams” the correct quote was, “If you build it, he will come,” the “he” being “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, but the message here in Morgantown remains the same as it was in that Iowa cornfield.

In this case Pat O’Conner, president of minor league baseball, and Ben Hayes, president of the New York-Penn League, a short-season minor league, were saying if the university can push through the construction of a baseball field alongside Walmart at the University Towne Center location, that league will relocate the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Jamestown franchise here.

The cost of the stadium was estimated at between $16 million and $18 million by WVU associate athletic director Mike Parsons, although there are no plans yet drawn up or contractor hired. And while it has been repeated over and over since this project was first proposed that it would be built with tax increment financing (TIF), it came out during a Tuesday morning press conference at the Jerry West Lounge that it could cost a couple of million or more dollars than that.

It has not yet been worked out whether the university, the minor league or the taxpayers would wind up fielding such an overrun.

“Generally speaking there are things everyone needs to bring to the table,” Hayes, a former pitcher and now an attorney, said. “I don’t believe TIF will build that stadium completely. There will be some expectation the minor league club participate and West Virginia participate. But those details, we need more information on the design, how big it’s going to be and that kind of thing.”

The financing plan recently passed the West Virginia Senate unanimously but has yet to pass the House. It is reasonable to assume O’Conner did not leave the warmth of St. Petersburg, Fla., to do this campaigning for the issue of moving a team here were it not a sure thing that once it passes all the legislative and internal hurdles such the governor’s approval and the board of governors.

As things stand now, plans are to complete construction and have this field of Oliver Luck’s dreams operational in the spring of 2015.

That means the WVU baseball team would play one more season of vagabond baseball after this season.

The message that O’Conner and Hayes carried was that they are ready to relocate the Jamestown franchise — affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates — in a new stadium in Morgantown and that it would enhance the economy and the quality of life in the area, as well as being a large asset to the university itself.

“In short, we’re just thrilled about the potential opportunity to relocate here,” Hayes said, noting that they have teams working in relationship with other universities and says because there is little overlap it works extremely well.

The point that was being driven home over and over throughout the discussion was that this stadium offers tremendous opportunities beyond just WVU baseball.

“It provides more than just an opportunity for West Virginia University to play baseball,” Parsons said. “It’s more for the community. It helps us socially, it helps us recreationally, it helps us economically.”

Parsons noted that there have already been discussions with Fairmont State University about using the facility, along with American Legion play in Morgantown and possibly the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission for tournament play.

“There are opportunities for other events there as well,” Hayes pointed out. “You can utilize the facility throughout the whole year, whether it be concerts, corporate outings or those types of things. There’s always a desire to use the facility to its fullest.”

“You will see a tremendous spillover into the academic side,” O’Conner added. “You are creating a laboratory for students to learn game operations, business, marketing. We do that well across the board in minor league baseball with internships and programs that allow students to learn the game hands on in a working environment.”

The New York-Penn League has been in operation since 1939 and has seen a number of future Hall of Fame players such as left-handed pitcher Warren Spahn, second baseman Nellie Fox and third baseman Wade Boggs play there, along with other stars such as Don Mattingly.

The league normally is the starting place for players out of the June draft, last year having seven of its 14 franchises place their No. 1 draft picks on New York-Penn League rosters.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Tori Postlewait front.jpg East’s Postlewait, North’s Latocha toss no-hitters

    Tori Postlewait made a deal with her great-uncle, Kenny Carpenter, before her freshman season.
    If the Bees’ pitcher tossed a no-hitter, Carpenter promised to give her $20.
    Well, it took four years, but it’s finally time for Postlewait’s great-uncle to pay up.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • East tennis splits with Polar Bears

    Fairmont Senior and East Fairmont split a pair of tennis matches Thursday, with Fairmont Senior winning the boys’ match and East Fairmont taking the girls’ competition.
    In the Bees’ 6-1 girls’ victory, Cara Laswell took second singles, 8-2. Erica Gorman won third singles, 8-1. And Carrington Reese won fourth singles, 8-3.

    April 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • McCutchen, Alvarez lead Pirates over Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • University hands Huskies first loss; East edges Elkins

    The mercy rule has been a familiar part of North Marion’s softball season.
    Through the first seven games, the Huskies regularly pounded their opponents with stingy defense, sharp pitching and timely hitting. Rarely did a game go all seven innings for the previously undefeated team.

    April 17, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • Pirates shut out by Reds’ Cueto, 4-0

    Johnny Cueto was on his game, and the only thing that the Pirates could do was watch.
    Cueto pitched his third career shutout against the team that beat him in the NL wild card game, and Joey Votto hit a two-run homer that led the Cincinnati Reds over the Pirates 4-0 Wednesday for their first winning series this season.

    April 17, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos