Kingsport Axmen players, fans react to early end of team’s season

Appalachian League

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Kingsport Axmen’s 2021 season is now over after a former player made threats resulting in the postponement of three consecutive games, much to the dismay of players and fans.

Matthew Taylor was arrested on false reporting and harassment charges. He was released on a $25,000 bond, which prompted the postponements out of safety concerns.

Those concerns have since resulted in USA Baseball, the national governing body for amateur baseball, canceling the remainder of the Axmen’s 2021 season.

Boyd Sports, the group that owns the Axmen, released a letter from President Chris Allen on Thursday stating that players “experienced troubling and concerning behavior involving a former teammate, who is now under the care of medical professionals.” He went on to say the decision to end the season was best for the welfare of players and staff.

Axmen outfielder Jordan Varela-Payne said the incident with Taylor was scary because Taylor knew where the team stayed and he was still in the area free on bond. Taylor is a Kingsport resident.

“The uncertainty of it all was just unbearable,” Varela-Payne said. “We were hitting and stuff. We were trying to keep it as normal as possible, but guys were fading out.”

From Monday to Thursday, several players left the team. Varela-Payne said the team was down to 16 players at one point.

For Varela-Payne, the end of a team is nothing new. His college program at North Carolina Central University was cut this Spring.

“It was like, dang, it just happened again,” Varela-Payne said.

He said he’s exploring options in other leagues with help from USA Baseball to continue to play this Summer.

Players received Zoom calls this morning from USA Baseball where they learned the season was over, but the news affected fans just as much as players.

Mark Davis runs a Axmen fan page on Facebook. The end of the season, especially after Kingsport missed out on the entire 2020 season due to the pandemic, left him devastated.

“I’m actually still kind of numb about it. It’s just sad for the City of Kingsport, sad for the Appalachian League, and for the community,” Davis said.

Davis is a season ticket holder. He said he has been to over 800 Appalachian League games.

Varela-Payne was saddened by the news as he felt he had just started to gel with his teammates. He said he’ll miss his time at Hunter Wright Stadium.

“Hunter Wright was a great, great place to play,” Varela-Payne said. “The fans, they brought enthusiasm, energy every night.”

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