GRANVILLE, W.Va. – It’s not easy to try and piece together a successful baseball team without any practice, with players from all over the country, from different levels, and oh, most of them have never met before.
It’s the inaugural season of the MLB Draft league and the West Virginia Black Bears are one of the six teams to test out the new league. Although the Black Bears don’t have direct ties with the Pittsburgh Pirates Organization due to the league set up, this means players on the team can now be drafted by any of the 30 MLB programs.
The West Virginia Black Bears are under new leadership as Morgantown native and West Virginia University baseball hall of famer Jedd Gyorko takes the reins.
Gyorko, as well as his staff and players, had little time to get to know one another before their first game on May 24.
“It’s been fun. I didn’t know a ton about them. I knew their numbers, I looked up their stats but other than that I didn’t see anyone other than Caleb play before they got here. We’re still learning each other. Good thing this league is mostly all about them. They just go out and play and showcase themselves so for me I just kind of sit back and watch and enjoy and when the time is there I try and teach them something,” Gyorko said.
Gyorko mentioned former Morgantown High School catcher, Johnny Bench award winner and Potomac State College player, Caleb Taylor.
Taylor, one of the only West Virginia natives on the roster, said being thrown into a new team where you don’t know your teammates is a feeling that’s familiar to him.
“Going to college is kind of the same thing. But playing with these guys who are from more around the country than what I play with, it’s a really good opportunity for all of us and just playing with these guys makes everyone better and me,” Taylor said.
Joining this league forces Taylor to do things like work with new pitchers.
“It’s always a challenge. I mean, you’re learning new arms, guys have different stuff that they like to throw on what counts. It’s hard to learn but you have to,” Taylor said.
One of those arms is from Canada. Florida State University Baseball commit Mitch Bratt started on the mound in the Black Bears second game of the season. He threw six strikeouts in three innings, not a bad debut, and Bratt said building relationships is the first step in playing in a league like this.
“It’s good just to get a relationship, just base it off of that first of all with some practices and stuff. With Caleb, we talked beforehand about what I throw, what I like to throw and my tendencies, etc. It’s good just being in the locker room, good comradery with a bunch of different guys and just going from there,” Bratt said.
Gyorko said it best, his team has a long summer ahead and he hopes to win some ball games.