WVU has always had a strong connection to Buffalo, N.Y. Three talented former student-athletes - Lester Rowe and the Wolfley brothers - Ronnie and Dale - hail from the greater Buffalo area.
For years Mountaineer fans watched the great Darryl Talley make tackle after tackle for the Buffalo Bills. Well, WVU has created another strong connection with the Buffalo area as Robert “Bob” Rich, owner and president of Rich Products, a multi-billion dollar frozen food business, has decided to relocate one of his baseball franchises to Morgantown. The Jamestown Jammers, based in Jamestown, New York, a community on the shores of Lake Chautauqua just a few miles southeast of downtown Buffalo, will open their 2015 season in the new Monongalia County Ballpark.
The Jammers are a short-season, A-league team that plays in the venerable New York-Penn League, which has been around since 1939. The Jammers, affiliated with Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates, will join a number of iconic short season clubs in the New York-Penn League, including the Staten Island Yankees, Brooklyn Cyclones, Aberdeen IronBirds (owned by Cal Ripken Jr.) and the State College Spikes. The Pirates, who also have an affiliation with the West Virginia Power in Charleston, will now have a second developmental club along Interstate 79.
This is a big win for North Central West Virginia in many respects. A new business is relocating to Morgantown, and it will have a multi-million dollar impact on the North Central West Virginia community. Local baseball fans can look forward to a full spring and summer of affordable family fun and entertainment at the new Monongalia County Ballpark. The ballpark will be home to the Mountaineers, of course, and the season for Coach Randy’s Mazey’s squad will run through the end of May/beginning of June. The short-season A schedule will then pick up in the middle of June and folks can hear the crack of the bat until Labor Day.
A significant number of people deserve credit for the relocation of the first professional sports franchise to North Central West Virginia, but it all begins with the vision of the Monongalia County Commission. Eldon Callen, Bill Bartolo and Tom Bloom shared the vision of what a new baseball facility could mean for Monongalia County and for the TIF (tax increment financing zone) that straddles the old Arkwright and Osage underground coal mines just west of Star City.
That vision is quickly becoming a reality and if you haven’t driven out past the Wal-Mart at University Town Centre I would encourage you to do so. You’ll see some significant development, including the 100,000 square feet of medical space that WVU Hospitals is building, and if you look hard enough, you’ll also see the outline of the new interchange along I-79 that will serve UTC and Mylan Park.
Commissioner Callen, long a proponent of development in the western end of Monongalia County, is seeing his dream come true, and the Morgantown Chamber of Commerce, led by the able Dan Kimble, was relentless in its support of the relocation of the Jamestown franchise.
Another group that deserves enormous gratitude is the West Virginia State Legislature, the State Office of Economic Development, headed by Keith Burdette, and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. With a series of virtually unanimous votes, the State Senate and the House of Delegates approved the TIF legislation and paved the way for the development of the new ballpark.
In particular, I would like to thank the six state senators who represent Monongalia County - Bob Beach, Larry Edgell, Jeff Kessler, Roman Prezioso, Dave Sypolt and Bob Williams.
Thirdly, I would like to thank Randy Mazey and his coaching staff for doing a marvelous job of revitalizing the WVU baseball program. Randy’s young men barnstormed around the state for the past couple of years, playing in sold-out stadiums in Beckley, Charleston and Princeton as well as in Morgantown. Mountaineer faithful from around the state and region showed the passion that exists for Mountaineer baseball and that passion will be on display every spring as we play a top-shelf Big 12 schedule.
So let’s celebrate another milestone for North Central West Virginia and welcome our new friends from Buffalo.