WV Black Bears to join new ‘MLB Draft League’

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NEW YORK – The West Virginia Black Bears aren’t going anywhere.

The Black Bears, which moved to Morgantown/Granville in 2015 as part of the New York-Penn League, will be one of five founding members of the new, “first-of-its-kind,” MLB Draft League according to a release by Major League Baseball.

The full release has been copied below.

Major League Baseball, Prep Baseball Report (PBR), and five founding members today announced the formation of the MLB Draft League, which will become the first league in the country focused on top prospects who are eligible to be drafted by MLB Clubs that summer.  With the 2021 MLB Draft moved back to July and being held as part of All-Star Week, draft-eligible players will have a unique opportunity to showcase their abilities and gain exposure to MLB Clubs and fans next summer.  The new format affirms MLB’s commitment to the region and assures that communities of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Jersey will continue to host high-caliber baseball and future Major Leaguers for years to come. 

The founding members of the MLB Draft League will be the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the State College Spikes, the Trenton Thunder, the West Virginia Black Bears, and the Williamsport Crosscutters.  The League is in advanced discussions with a sixth team and hopes to announce in the coming weeks.  Plans include a 68-game regular season with an annual All-Star Break centered around the MLB Draft.  MLB Draft League participants will receive unprecedented visibility to MLB Club scouts through both in-person observation and state-of-the-art scouting technology, and educational programming designed to prepare them for careers as professional athletes.  PBR will provide support for the league’s staffing, player and coach recruitment, on-field operations, and administrative functions. PBR will also use their media and technology platforms to promote the league and its players throughout the season.

MLB Draft League logo. (Courtesy: Major League Baseball)

Today’s announcement follows the late September announcement of the Appalachian League’s evolution into the premier college wood bat league for the nation’s top rising freshmen and sophomores, and is part of MLB’s broader efforts to modernize player development while preserving baseball in the local communities in which it is currently played. More announcements, including additional members of the MLB Draft League, other MLB-sponsored leagues as well as licensed affiliates, will follow in the coming weeks.

Kerrick Jackson will serve as President of the MLB Draft League.  Prior to joining PBR, Jackson served as the head coach at Southern University, where he led a nine-win team to the NCAA Tournament in three years.  For three years, Jackson was the Midwest Area Scouting Supervisor for the Washington Nationals, overseeing Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska and the Dakotas.  Jackson served as the recruiting coordinator at the University of Missouri for five years (2010-2015) and has held assistant roles at Nicholls State University, Fairfield University, Emporia State University and Coffeyville Community College.  He has coached in the Cape Cod League and New England Collegiate Baseball League.

Morgan Sword, MLB’s Executive Vice President, Baseball Economics & Operations, said: “We are thrilled to partner with Prep Baseball Report and the founding members of the MLB Draft League to create a one-of-a-kind league that will attract the nation’s top players who are eligible for each year’s MLB Draft and allow local fans to see top prospects and future big-league stars in their hometowns. This announcement continues MLB’s commitment to preserving and growing baseball in communities around the United States.”

Sean Duncan, President of Prep Baseball Report, said: “We are honored to work with these ownership groups and Major League Baseball to assure the future of impactful, high-level baseball to the region and continue the legacy of deep community involvement from all of these teams. With more than 150 scouts and operations personnel coast-to-coast at the high school, collegiate and junior college levels, we take great pride in our ability to identify the nation’s top amateur draft prospects, which will ultimately make the MLB Draft League the preeminent league for draft-eligible players.”

The West Virginia Black Bears also announced the move on their website.

Read Also: Information on the new MLB Draft League

Also attached to the statement from Major League Baseball were statements from various important figures from West Virginia.

Their statements have been copied below, as well.

United States Senator Joe Manchin: “Today’s announcement is wonderful news for the Morgantown Black Bears who provide so many West Virginians with entertainment, family time and foster a love of the American pastime. Supporting our baseball teams has been a priority of mine and I’m pleased to hear we’ll have another Major League Baseball affiliated team here in the Mountain State. As the Black Bears transition to the new MLB Draft League, I will continue to stay committed to ensuring that baseball stays in Morgantown. I look forward to seeing the Black Bears thrive in the years to come.”

Additional MLB Draft League Logo (Courtesy: Major League Baseball)

United States Senator Shelley Moore Capito: “The Black Bears being able to keep playing baseball is great news for all of West Virginia. It goes without saying that Morgantown offers so many assets, from the facilities, existing partnerships with the community, and wonderful fans who enjoy watching baseball on West Virginia summer nights. When it was announced that the Black Bears were rumored to be on the list to be eliminated as an MLB affiliate, I worked constantly to make sure we had a suitable way to be able to keep playing baseball and this opportunity allows them to do so.”

Governor Jim Justice: “I am truly excited to hear that the Black Bears will continue in Morgantown as a member of the Major League Baseball Draft League. The Black Bears are an important part of the North Central West Virginia economy and their entire community. I am grateful to Major League Baseball for their commitment to our state, and their recognition of baseball’s importance to Almost Heaven West Virginia.”

Patricia Lewis, Mayor of Granville: “The Town of Granville is excited to hear that the West Virginia Black Bears will be playing at Monongalia County Ball Park this spring. We have had a wonderful relationship with the Black Bears and they are an important part of the Granville community. The fans will be looking forward to them returning for the ‘21 baseball season.”

Tom Bloom, Monongalia County Commissioner: “On behalf of the Monongalia County Commission, we are thrilled to continue our relationship with the West Virginia Black Bears and MLB. The West Virginia Black Bears have become an integral part of our community. We pride ourselves with a stadium that is considered first-class and that is how we feel about the Black Bears organization. This agreement clearly shows your support for our team, our community and minor league baseball. We appreciate your support of the future of minor league baseball and we are excited to be part of your vision.”

E. Gordon Gee, President, West Virginia University, said: “West Virginia University and the West Virginia Black Bears are fortunate to share Monongalia County Ballpark, one of the premier venues of its kind in the country. The Major League Baseball Draft League will bolster that relationship by providing exciting new opportunities for our student-athletes to grow and develop as they aspire to the big leagues. I look forward to joining Mountaineer fans as we cheer on the future stars of baseball getting their start right here in Morgantown.”

Shane Lyons, Director of Athletics and Associate Vice President, West Virginia University, said: “The construction of Monongalia County Ballpark has to be one of the most successful projects for the Morgantown community in the last 10 years. The ballpark continues to provide dividends to our local economy as it was one of the driving forces in the decision to bring a Major League Baseball Draft League team to Morgantown. The future stars of baseball and even potential Hall of Famers will get their start in Morgantown and how great that will be for our community. It will be special for fans one day to see baseball professionals shine in the major leagues and be able to say they saw him play in Morgantown. The Mountaineers have a great relationship with the West Virginia Black Bears and Rich Baseball, and we look forward to continue working with them as they become one of the prestigious inaugural teams of this great new venture.”

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