By Bob Redd
For The Register-Herald
NCAA Division I baseball is coming to Princeton.
The West Virginia Mountaineers will host the Virginia Tech Hokies at Hunnicutt Field on May 6, 2014; the announcement was made Friday afternoon at the Chuck Mathena Center by WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck.
“We had such a great response last year when we took the baseball team on the road for a number of games in Charleston at Power Park, up in Beckley at Linda Epling Field, we had a great response, great fan support,” Luck said. “We’ve been trying to get Tech back on our baseball schedule for a while. I talked to the baseball coach (Randy Mazey) and we said let’s do Princeton. The stadium is in West Virginia, which is very important. It’s a beautiful ballpark, great fan support in Princeton and we thought it would be just a really fun event to have the Hokies and the Mountaineers tee it up on May 6.”
While the game is a one-year agreement, Luck did not rule out the possibility of future contests in Princeton and added that it is WVU’s intention to work with traditional rivals and former league members to meet and not just on the gridiron.
“I think we’d both love to make it a long-term fixture on the calendar. It’s not just coincidence that we’re working with Tech. We’re trying to get them involved with as many sports as we possibly can. They’ve got, for example, a good wrestling program, obviously a good baseball program. We’ve started to play them in basketball again. We had a buzzer beater victory up in Morgantown last year and we’ll be down in Blacksburg this year, early in the season. Of course we’ve scheduled them in football but that’s not for a while. I hope all of us will be around at that point to watch that game, but I think we’d like to get them involved with as many sporting events as we possibly can,” Luck said.
“We want to make sure that our old friends, whether it’s UVa, Virginia Tech, Penn State, or Pitt, that we can still have good contact with those schools, not necessarily every year in football, but trying to mix it up with as many different sports as we can.”
WVU baseball was a pleasant surprise in its inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference last season, finishing third and making the four-team conference playoff. The team played its home conference games last year in Charleston and Beckley. This year the Mountaineers will play some league games on campus but will also play one series in Charleston. A new ballpark is scheduled to open in time for the 2015 season.
“Last year we set seven of our eight attendance records for baseball and that’s over 119 years of WVU baseball, going back to 1892,” Luck said. “I think that’s an indication of the rejuvenated program. It’s also an indication that people in Beckley and Charleston really supported us well and I think we’ll get the same effect here in Princeton.”
“We sometimes forget at the state’s flagship institution that we’re so far north and we forget sometimes that we really do represent the entire state. I don’t think you can get any further away from Morgantown than Princeton in terms of geography,” Luck said. “I think this is an attempt on our part to make sure that our folks remember that we do represent the entire state from panhandle to panhandle all the way down to the southern coalfields and to the Virginia border.”
This, in a sense, is an important statement by our program that Southern West Virginia matters a lot to us.”
Adam Sarver was a driving force in getting the Mountaineers to play a game in Princeton and said the process took about a year-and-a-half.
“I met with Adrian Dowell and I just flat out asked him what it would take to have a ballgame down here. They didn’t have anywhere to play, so I kind of opened up the conversation,” Sarver said. “It took a little while to iron it out, but after that we got to a good conclusion and we’ll be playing down here soon.”
Dowell, a major gifts officer with the Mountaineer Athletic Club, has ties to the area, having lived in Bluefield until he moved to the Roanoke, Va., area at age seven.
Princeton Rays general manager Jim Holland is pleased to serve as host to the two teams.
“It’s a great opportunity for us because maybe there’s a lot of people that live close to here that have never come to a game here and this is just another way for us to show our ballpark off and we’re excited to have these two good institutions here and we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and start working on it to get things ready.”
Ticket information will be announced at a future date.
— Contact Bob Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org