WV Black Bears will now feature ‘draft-eligible’ players, not Pirates prospects

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The West Virginia Black Bears will take the field in Granville for a sixth season of baseball in the summer of 2021. But they will no longer serve as a minor-league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Black Bears will be part of the newly-formed MLB Draft League. This is a six-team league that will begin play next May and will feature former New York-Penn League rivals, Williamsport, Mahoning Valley and State College. The Trenton Thunder will also be in the league with a team still to be named.

Rosters will be comprised of draft-eligible, amateur players at the college and high school levels. Wooden bats will be used.

The MLB Draft League is slated to have a 68-game schedule with an annual All-Star Break centered around the MLB Draft, which is now scheduled for July. This new league will be sanctioned by MLB and operated by Prep Baseball Report (PBR), one of the country’s biggest and most respected amateur scouting services.

Since the Black Bears were founded in 2015, they competed in the New York-Penn League, one of the oldest continuously run leagues in minor league baseball. The franchise produced several players that made their way through the system to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, including Kevin Newman, Kevin Kramer, Brandon Waddell, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Dario Agrazal and J.T. Brubaker.

The Black Bears won the NYPL title in their first season under manager Wyatt Toregas.

MLB announced reduction of their MiLB affiliates throughout the country, including the Appalachian League that houses franchises in Princeton and Bluefield. The Appy League has been converted to a college wooden bat league.

The Black Bears share Monongalia County Ballpark with the West Virginia University Mountaineers. “The construction of Monongalia County Ballpark has to be one of the most successful projects for the Morgantown community in the last 10 years,” said WVU Director of Athletics Shane Lyons.

“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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