The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 24, 2013

Epling Stadium

A real grand slam for Southern West Virginia

— Beckley? A baseball destination?

Absolutely. And how!

What has transpired at Linda K. Epling Stadium over the past couple of years has been nothing short of amazing.

Since the state-of-the-art facility was christened in 2010, it has hosted baseball for local middle school and high school athletes.

That alone would have been outstanding. Allowing our youth an opportunity to play on a field and in a facility that is modern and allows for their athletic and physical development to prosper like never before, it’s a win for our region.

But it didn’t stop there.

The Beckley-based West Virginia Miners, operated by the Epling family, made an immediate splash in the Prospect League. The Miners reached the championship finals in their first year and hosted the league’s All-Star game in its second season. Winning the league championship in 2012 in their third campaign was a tremendous accomplishment.

Talented collegiate players from all over the country come in for a few months each summer to play for the Miners, while providing great, affordable family entertainment in Beckley.

It’s been great to cheer on a winner. It does something good for community pride. We’re rallying behind the Miners to bring home even more trophies.

Epling Stadium drew the interest of Marshall University as well. The Thundering Herd has played several contests in Beckley over the past two seasons, because of the great facility provided and the strong support it has received and still seeks in southern West Virginia. The Herd is slated to play several games here again in 2013, including contests against Radford and East Carolina.

This season, West Virginia University will also play a series here against Big 12 Conference foe Kansas.

Marshall and WVU will also play against each other this season — in Beckley!

As the famed baseball broadcaster Mel Allen used to say, “How about that?”

The West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference will play its conference tournament here in 2013, the second time the NCAA Division II league has called Beckley its home for championship baseball.

Epling Stadium was not built using taxpayer money, like many minor league and Major League Baseball parks across the country.

Private funds built it.

The Eplings ponied up the money, assuming the risk of Beckley being able to support top-notch baseball.

And Beckley, the area, the state and the region are benefiting from it.

It’s widely known that tourism and the economic support that comes with it is helped when the nation’s pastime is played in an area. Cities often compete to land professional and semi-pro teams, many promising funding and tax incentives.

Not here.

The Epling family has proved the Field of Dreams theory — “Build it, and they will come.”

So here’s to another successful season.

Because Linda K. Epling Stadium and the activity it provides is a grand slam for us all.