It’s time to play ball for the Appalachian League

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, June 4, 2024

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The Appalachian League opens its summer season this week.

The Elizabethton River Riders will open their 2024 season Friday in Elizabethton. The second game of the season will be Saturday evening.

The River Riders will play on a new turf field this summer. The field was installed over the winter. Also, the team has a special night planned for its second home game on Saturday when Carnival Night will be observed. There will be games, food, and a fireworks show. Kiva Fuller, River Riders general manager, said a fun night is planned.

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Baseball is known as America’s pastime, but the reality is that there are only 30 Major League teams. If you don’t happen to live in or near one of the 28 American cities that are the homes of those teams, how do you get your baseball fix?

That’s where the minor leagues and summer teams such as the River Riders come in.

When it comes to civic enhancements, minor league baseball has always been a big attraction locally. While many of the players in the Appalachian League are college players with the hopes of making it to the big league one day, they provide some good baseball for local fans, and catching a baseball game is a good way to ease into summer. Baseball is one of summer’s most relaxing treasures.

The folks who attend these games are regulars. They do it summer after summer and become “baseball” friends.

Baseball has its benefits, as it is one game that doesn’t have a game clock ticking stressfully toward zero. It allows fans time to slow down and enjoy each other, such as good conversation. Fans can talk about politics or TV shows or even big life stuff at a baseball game and still follow the action. It’s not like being at a basketball or soccer game.

Also, most summer league baseball fans aren’t as invested in who wins, so aside from the handful of obsessives and the players and coaches themselves, everyone’s just there for a good, low-stakes time. It’s a lightly competitive game featuring impressive-if-not-world-elite physical skill that also doesn’t raise your blood pressure or make anyone stupidly angry at the outcome?

However, these players could use your support. They are not making thousands of dollars a year. Most make less than the minimum wage and struggle to find housing during the season. Some teams stay on college campuses. Some of these players are the stars of the future and have inked large signing bonuses, but most won’t ever see the big leagues. They’re scrapping to make the next level up or, on the other end of their careers, clawing to hold on to the game they love for just a little more time. Away from the distraction of 40,000-person stadiums in major league cities, you can get up close to watch guys playing a game for the sheer delight of it. That’s good for the fan’s soul.

Part of the fun of the fame is the between-inning entertainment. This is when your deep conversation with your seatmate stops and you focus entirely on the action on the field. If anything, you’re guaranteed a good laugh.

Make plans to attend a local River Riders game this season and enjoy a game of baseball as well as make some new friends. You’ll be surprised at the fun you will have.