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From the Sports Editor’s desk… Could the Elizabethton Twins era be over

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com    
The question has been asked over and over and over again as to whether the Elizabethton Twins days in Elizabethton has come to an end.
And while Minor League Baseball or Boyd Sports has made any formal announcement, by the looks of how things are progressing in Major League Baseball and in sports in general the writing may well be on the wall already.
With Boyd’s Sports announcement of a new East Tennessee Baseball League that begins on June 8th with plans on running about eight weeks concluding with a championship series between the top teams from the East and West league featuring rising juniors and seniors of area high school baseball teams, the answer becomes even more apparent.
With the Appalachian League being around ever since I was a child and seeing many future stars pass through teams throughout the area, this is truly a sad time as both a baseball fan and as a sports writer.
Growing up in Gate City, I watched more of the Kingsport Mets early on and remember Darryl Strawberry launching a shot that was still climbing as it left the ball field at Dobyns-Bennett High School and easily crossed the four-lane highway behind the field.
Then as a father with my kids at an Atlanta Brave game at Fulton County Stadium getting a baseball off the bat of Strawberry as a big leaguer just are memories that won’t be forgotten.
However, losing the Twins is a significant loss for a small town like Elizabethton who has seen a lion’s share of future big leaguers pass through Joe O’Brien Field on their way to the big club in Minnesota.
I think of the Kirby Puckett’s, the Jeff Reed’s, and the Joe Mauer’s just to name a few who provided entertainment to their fans right here in our small community on their way to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
It will be a sad time come the summer months of June through August going forward with the reality of Minor League Baseball not being on everyone’s list to attend during the school’s summer break.
Long-time fans who came and lined the fence behind home plate and down the third-base line ringing their cowbells and giving the players from opposing teams a hard time while they were on the batter’s deck, on the mound, or up to bat will be at a loss not being able to rattle E-Twin opponents.
There’s a saying that one doesn’t know what they have until its gone and I think the reality of losing the E-Twins will not set in until maybe this time next year when instead of wondering who will be coming Elizabethton’s way after the baseball draft takes place and the field sits quite when baseball should be going on.
I know there might be alternatives to bring some baseball to the field in something like a wooden-bat league or potentially an off-season college league, but that will not take the place of the Elizabethton Twins and even brings into question how could someone like Boyd Sports make enough off this type of league to pay employees needed to take care of concessions.
Time will tell how the loss of the Elizabethton Twins will impact our community and one can only hope that one day in the near future that Minor League baseball could be lured back to our part of the country.
I, for one, will definitely miss minor league baseball in the Tri-Cities area and I know there are many that feel that same pain. I just hope that Major Leaguers will realize the importance of them getting back on the field this summer and lay aside their greed and egos.
If not, I know there are a lot of minor leaguers who would love to be taking the field just like those who have taken the Northeast Community Credit Union Ball Park field for all those years that have passed.
I don’t think at this time last year when it was all Elizabethton could do to keep the E-Twins that anyone would have ever expected this to happen. Many are questioning the money that had to be invested to just keep minor league baseball here.
And while the contract includes the Minnesota affiliated paying the city back $50,000 per year for the next eight years, it doesn’t take the soreness out of knowing all the hard work that went into keeping a team in Elizabethton.
And yet here we are – on the cusp of saying adios to Elizabethton Twin baseball anyway.
It feels like taking a perfect game to the bottom of the ninth inning, with two batters out, and two strikes on a batter only to see a little pop fly fall between the third baseman and the left fielder for a single to end the hopes of a pitcher for perfection.
The sting will last for a few seconds and then life has to go on to the next pitch.