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Bluefield finds new ground in revamped Appalachian League

By Bob Madison for The Shepherdstown Chronicle

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Major League Baseball cut ties with the lowest minor leagues, when it collapsed the Appalachian League after the 2021 season.

West Virginia towns of Bluefield and Princeton lost their years-old franchises and the coalfields saw baseball history ground into so much coal dust.

But baseball has been revived in an all-new Appalachian League that has found new legs with a 10-team circuit that features nothing but collegiate players getting in some summer fun, while still being seen by professional scouts.

Bluefield, astride the West Virginia-Virginia border, still uses historic Bowen Field, a landmark built in 1939 and refurbished in 1972.

Princeton no longer has a team, but Huntington — now the landing spot of the Tri-State Coal Cats — has taken its place in what is a 10-team circuit.

Tri-State plays its home games at Jack Cook Field, one of the Appalachian League’s larger venues that holds 5,000 people.

Bluefield calls itself the “Ridge Runners” after a train that is supposed to attract tourists.

All of the league’s teams are located in West Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia or Tennessee. One of the more centralized cities, Bluefield is 171 miles from the most distant city — not a bad bus ride for the 18-to-23 year-olds in the league.

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