BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) – On Thursday night, Kingsport baseball fans had no team in the Appalachian League for the rest of 2021. Friday, things changed when the newly-named Kingsport Road Warriors took the field against the Bristol State Liners.
The team was assembled in a day by Kingsport General Manager Steve Brice and the rest of his front office yesterday.
“I got the call at about 10 a.m. and at 11 the players were coming to get all their stuff out of the locker and at noon we started making those calls,” Brice said.
The new team and name change came as a result of threats made against players of the Kingsport Axmen by former player Matthew Thomas. Thomas was charged with felony false reporting and harassment. Thomas posted a $25,000 bond.
A statement from Boyd Sports, owner of the Kingsport team, said that Thomas was receiving medical care.
Axmen players were sent home as a precaution stemming from the threats made to them by Thomas. But new players were brought in to fill out a 23-man roster.
The team then decided to change its name to reflect the fact they won’t be playing at Hunter Wright Stadium in Kingsport, due to safety concerns.
“We thought, hey, let’s have some fun with it and be the Road Warriors,” Brice said.
Safety concerns were addressed at Friday’s game with an increased presence by Bristol Police Department. The Road Warriors will still practice at Hunter Wright Stadium, but will have security on hand.
Manager Mike Guinn said the team is ready, despite coming together in a day.
“These guys are real eager to play,” Guinn said. “They responded very well.”
Many players are from East Tennessee, but some came as far as Texas, California and Florida to play.
Brice said there is potential for the team to return to Kingsport for home games toward the end of the Appalachian League season. If that happens, he assumed the Axmen name and logo would return.
Kingsport baseball fan Mark Davis runs the Axmen, now Road Warrior, Facebook fan page. He said the return to Kingsport would be welcomed.
“It’ll be great to have them back home playing at Hunter Wright Stadium. It’d be good for the city of Kingsport with all that’s happened, so I really hope that gets worked out with all the parties,” Davis said.
Brice said fans will still have many opportunities to see the new team until then, as much of the remaining schedule will be played in the Tri-Cities.
The Road Warriors lost in their first game 25-6 to the Bristol State Liners.