League was one saving grace… East Tennessee High School Baseball League salvaged summer for baseball fans
BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
If there was one saving grace during the summer months of 2020 when typically locals flock to the Appalachian League homes of the Elizabethton Twins and Johnson City Cardinals to enjoy the boys of summer taking the field.
A couple of things changed the landscape this season with one being the COVID-19 pandemic and the other being the fact that Minor League Baseball and their parent clubs were arguing whether certain teams would be closed down going forward.
While the crystal ball still doesn’t look too bright for the Appalachian League to return, it’s very probable that Boyd Sports was experimenting with how such a league would be welcomed by the local communities that would be impacted by the loss of minor league baseball.
16 teams took to the field in two divisions at two of the local fields – TVA Credit Union Ballpark in Johnson City and Northeast Community Credit Union in Elizabethton.
At the time of the writing of this article, the season is winding down with the playoffs set to take place during the end of the week in Johnson City.
So, what was learned from this league?
First, the league itself can be built on with improvements when it can handle two umpires working the games and possibly extending the games an extra half hour.
There was some good baseball played and in some instances, some of the teams were overwhelmed by playing teams two classifications above what they normally play.
However, the experience that was gained will come into play when teams are able to get back to playing in their own classifications once high school baseball season resumes.
Secondly, Boyd Sports could expand the league to more teams and provide a great opportunity to play inter-division games as well as possible host weekend tournaments much like travel teams play where these teams could square off from teams from out of the area.
Again, I am sure that the possibilities to replace minor league baseball in the area got a shot in the arm by seeing the teams that participated this season.
Word is that there could also be the possibility of having a college wooden bat league as well. It’s just good to see that some planning ahead is being done in the event that the Appalachian League has seen its final baseball in this area.
Major League Baseball heading toward the first pitch
If all things remain as is, there should be another professional sport around the corner as Major League Baseball prepares to deliver its first pitch on a 60-game schedule on July 23rd with three games on major networks as the Chicago Cubs play the Milwaukee Brewers at 1 pm, the New York Yankees play the Washington Nationals at 7 pm and then the San Francisco Giants take on the Los Angeles Dodgers at 10 pm.
It will definitely look different than in past seasons but at least fans will get their whistles wetted by some baseball that hopefully can make it through the proposed season.
Hopefully, those who have chosen to play can remain healthy and cluster cases of COVID-19 will stay away. If one or two teams were to run into this problem, it could effectively slow or close the season altogether.
Fingers and toes will be crossed and prayers offered that this will not be the case and that baseball can help ease some of the tensions from the 2020 year so far.