JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Thursday is opening day for the new Appalachian League. This season, it premieres as a summer collegiate league. The teams are still associated with the MLB, but not individual teams.
Although there are changes, the Vice President of Boyd Sports, Jeremy Boller, says they won’t be all that noticeable.
“From great talent to great baseball associated with Major League Baseball,” said Jeremy Boller. “Nothing is changing from the atmosphere of the game, so the experience of the ballgame, the only difference is who’s sending us players.”
The players hail from colleges all across the nation. Kiva Fuller, the General Manager for the Johnson City Doughboys, says it makes for a great experience for both the players and management.
“Summer collegiate baseball is super exciting because these young men, first of all, have to be invited to this league to play,” Fuller said. “They’re really grateful and very excited to be here, but it’s wonderful to watch them develop and grow.”
Almost everyone in the Tri-Cities has a team they can call their home team this summer, and many of you won’t have to drive far for games. Johnson City, Elizabethton, and Kingsport all have home games Thursday. Those games all start at 7 p.m. pending rain delay or rainout.
There aren’t any restrictions for fans, but the league is being cautious with the players this season. Namely, interaction with fans will be very limited.
“Unfortunately, they won’t be able to get autographs from the players. They won’t be able to interact with the players. Which is kind of sad to me, being in the collegiate world for the past 13 years, that’s a big part of it is getting to know the team,” said Fuller.
“So we will still do kids run the bases on Sunday games, but we have to wait until the players are completely off the field. And first pitches, I think we’re going to have Rookie catch it this year instead of a player, which will be interesting because Rookie isn’t that great at seeing things,” said Brice Ballentine Elizabethton River Riders General Manager.
However, there will also be plenty of fun beyond the game itself. Teams plan to have firework displays, live music, food trucks and are bringing back specials people love, like Thirsty Thursdays.
“Our first fireworks show is going to be on the 4th, Friday the 4th. Actually, all of our fireworks except for the July 4th will be on Fridays,” said Ballentine.
“Kingsport has live music the first three games in their home stands,” said Boller.
Fuller says the Doughboys will have fireworks after the Thursday night game and plan to bring live music back to the park on Saturday, June 12.