Ready for summer of baseball in Elizabethton

Published 10:23 am Friday, June 4, 2021

In announcing last fall that a new baseball team would soon call Elizabethton home, officials promised “family entertainment” along with a competitive brand of baseball featuring players hungry to catch the eyes of professional scouts.
Thursday, the Elizabethton River Riders took the field. The upstart club opened plays against the Greeneville Flyboys and they won.
The summer league is much about entertainment for the community as it about baseball for the college age kids playing. It’s about community outreach, and it’s as much about contests as it is the final score of the game.
The Appalachian League features 10 teams across four states. While the league’s cities remain the same, much has changed since the last time Appy League baseball was played.
After serving as a rookie-level league in Minor League Baseball since 1963, the Appy League transitioned in 2020 to a collegiate summer league as part of the MLB and USA Baseball Prospect Development Pipeline, a pathway for amateur baseball players in the United States. The league, which will feature rising freshmen and sophomores, will also be an integral part of the identification and development process for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team and other future national teams.
The wooden-bat league has been in existence since 2008, and has sent numerous players ton to big-league organizations.
The inaugural season will include 54 games, a midseason All-Star game and a championship game slated for August 10.
Most Elizabethton residents are happy baseball is back for the 2021 summer following a year-long hiatus from sports activities because of COVID-19, which has impacted so many lives and activities.
COVID impacted lives in so many ways that were previously unimaginable. Traditional holiday family gatherings were canceled and cherished activities like going to the movies, theater and concerts vanished behind shuttered doors.
Sports fans felt the loss, too, Major League baseball was in spring training when the coronavirus brought the world as we knew it to a half. A shortened season eventually took place with games played in disturbingly empty ballparks and COVID outbreaks among players disrupting and threatening to end the season prematurely.
Putting the pandemic aside, there are games to be won and lost. 
Fans of local baseball welcome the Elizabethton River Riders to Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark after a season’s absence of baseball due to COVID.
Everyone is fed up with the pandemic. The opening of baseball season offers hope, as it always does on a variety of levels. The completion of a successful baseball season unmarred by major virus outbreaks among teams and fans may signal that by fall the nation will have gained the upper hand over COVID.

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