Will the West Virginia Power play a baseball game this season?
After Major League Baseball teams released hundreds of minor league players last week and are expected to cut hundreds more this week, it appears very likely there won’t be any minor league baseball in 2020.
“Really, no one is talking about playing,” said Tim Wilcox, Power owner and managing partner. “There’s not much mention of minor league baseball.
“I give it a 10% chance that we’ll have a season this year. It doesn’t look good. I’ve been told that I’m being optimistic at 10%. Some people are saying 5% and I’m like, ‘There’s not much difference between 5 and 10.’ It’s not like it’s 90%.”
Wilcox is being a realist.
What choice does he have?
Wilcox realizes the Power is on a list of 42 minor league teams scheduled to be cut when Major League Baseball’s working agreement with Minor League Baseball ends in September.
“They are wanting to get rid of us, Princeton, Bluefield and Morgantown,” he said. “They might keep Morgantown. That 42-40 list — from what I’m being told — has changed.
“I can’t tell you who is on it or who is off. It would really be sad if you thought you made the cut, but now you’re out. We just don’t know. Minor League Baseball down in St. Pete (headquarters for MiLB), they’re trying to do what they can. But with this new cutback of the 42 teams, there won’t be a minor league system in St. Pete anymore. Major League Baseball is going to run it all.
“They may have some liasons between them. And they’re going to re-district all the leagues and decide who is in low-A and high-A. They are talking about getting rid of six teams in the low-A and moving them out to the Northwest League — the short-season league out there.”
Besides that, they’re getting rid of the entire Appalachian League.
“Correct,” said Wilcox. “Yeah, you’re right. And think about this. Been out to Seattle and those areas in April and May? It’s cold and it’s rainy. There’s a reason why it’s short-season ball out there, but now they want to start playing in June.”
None of this is making any sense.
Jettisoning 42 minor league teams is nonsense and cutting the West Virginia Power is even more nonsensical.
“When we were on the 42-team list to be cut, for whatever reason,” said Wilcox, “they said, ‘Well, it’s the ballpark.’ You know, Power Park ... we were ranked, I think, No. 17 in low-A, as far as facilities.
“I mean, our ballpark, we’ve never been written up for anything. The city just put in a new surface a couple years ago. Our ballpark is in pretty good shape.
“I could understand Hagerstown. I mean, Hagerstown kind of reminds me of old Watt Powell Park. Then, you’ve got teams out in the Midwest League like Clinton. Their stadiums aren’t that great.”
Appalachian Power Park is much more attractive. That’s why fans from the Huntington area regularly attend Power games.
“The problem has been, historically,” explained Wilcox, “when the PBA first came out, there was supposed to be a list or a criteria that your stadium had to have. And you could get waivers. I’m not picking on Hagerstown, but they would get a waiver not to have to do something.
“Now, when this thing first came out it was going to be based on travel and what kind of stadium do you have and all this kind of stuff. For some reason, we didn’t make the cut. Lexington (Ky.) is also in the same boat as we are.”
So, what’s the answer?
Is there even one?
My fear is we’ve watched our last West Virginia Power game in Appalachian Power Park.
“You’re right about one thing,” said Wilcox, “There may not be another …”
But, then, the Power’s owner did some quick back-tracking.
“I mean, there’s a Frontier League out there,” said Wilcox, “there’s the Atlantic League out there. That might be a possibility to get here in Charleston.”
But is that the same as what local fans have grown accustomed to watching?
“It is and it isn’t,” answered Wilcox. “To the die-hard fan who loves baseball, these guys are trying to get to the pros. To the guys who want to follow someone, like the board we have with all the kids who have come through here and gone to the pros, that might be hard to do.
“It’s a tough situation.”
Indeed, it is.
Professional baseball is on life-support in Charleston and throughout the Mountain State.
But Tim Wilcox is doing his best to keep it breathing.