MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Praising a community of supportive ticket-buyers, a new ballpark that’s under construction and a reliable group of minor-league owners, Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly called Morgantown “the perfect blend” for the team’s relocated Single-A affiliate.
The New York-Penn League team, known as the Jamestown Jammers, is slated to move from Jamestown, N.Y., before the 2015 season and will choose a new nickname during a local contest this fall.
The Pirates are enthused about having more short-season prospects playing so close to Pittsburgh, and a just a couple hours away from the the high Single-A team in Charleston.
“To partner with a minor-league community within our geographic each, that’s really what we strive for,” Coonelly said. “We could not allow any other major-league team to become affiliated with Morgantown, W.Va. This had to be us.”
The Jammers are owned by Rich Baseball, a group tied to the frozen-food manufacturer Rich Products Corp., which claims more than $3.3 billion in annual sales. The company’s baseball arm also owns the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons and Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
“Being successful in the minor leagues really means that you realize who your bosses are, and your bosses are the folks who come to watch your games, hopefully every night,” said Bob Rich. “I’ve never thought that I was a minor-league baseball owner—I’ve thought that I was a steward of baseball for the people in the community.”
The new ballpark currently being constructed as part of the University Towne Center project is targeting to host the West Virginia baseball team next spring before the minor-league short season begins next June.
“There are a handful of ballparks that I would pay to sit in even if there wasn’t a game going on, and this ballpark is going to be one of them,” said Pat O’Conner, president of Minor League Baseball.
The funds for the 3,500-seat ballpark were arranged through a $16.2 million tax-increment financing district approved on a third attempt by the state legislature in early 2013. Crews broke ground on the site in October 2013.
Said Monongalia County Commissioner Eldon Callen: “Two and a half years ago I never thought this day would come.”
The Jammers have played in Jamestown since 1994 but attendance has lagged severely of late. Through 31 games this season, the team was drawing only 751 fans per game—last in a 14-team league where eight franchises are averaging more than 3,000.