By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
The West Virginia Miners’ home opener is less than a month away, which means the behind-the-scenes work is about to shift into high gear.
After starting the season May 29 at Butler for a two-game series, the Miners will play at Linda K. Epling Stadium for the first time on Saturday, May 31, against Prospect League newcomer Champion City. It will be one of three fireworks nights, along with the Fourth of July and Fan Appreciation Night on Aug. 2.
As always, there will be plenty of promotions throughout the summer, but this season will have a theme.
“Our slogan this year is, ‘We’re All About Kids and Community,’” said Tony Fritsch, who is in his first year as the Miners’ director of marketing, sales and game day operations. “We’ve always been about kids and community, but we’re basing all of our promotions around that.”
West Virginia has five Sunday games this season and all will be part of a Kids Day series. Plans are in the works for kids, including more than just the two bouncy houses in the Kids Zone.
All Sunday games will start at 2:05 p.m.
The Prospect League’s East Division teams will not have Mondays off as they had in each of the last two seasons. The Miners will take advantage with FCA Mondays. For every Monday game ticket purchased, $1 will be donated to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Stars of Tomorrow Night will recognize award winners from the Upper Deck Middle School Baseball League, as well as individuals who receive baseball and softball honors at the high school level.
The team will also be partnering with a number of causes, including the Humane Society (All the Bark Without the Bite Night, June 17), Susan G. Komen For the Cure (Ladies Night, June 27) and the American Red Cross.
Sunday, July 27, will be Emma’s Touch Night. Emma’s Touch is a foundation for children with cancer.
“It was started by parents who lost their daughter to cancer,” Fritsch said.
The Miners will also take advantage of the social media craze with Throwback Thursday with the WJLS Big Dawg on July 3. Plans for that night are still being kicked around, but could include things such as players’ baby or youth baseball pictures and older music.
“That seems to be a hot trend on Twitter and (other social media),” Fritsch said.
A new feature this season will be the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance during the seventh-inning stretch. Both teams will file along the basepaths as they do for the national anthem during pregame.
“We’re looking to get local elementary (students) to also line up with the players and really put an emphasis on that pride in the nation,” Fritsch said.
Christmas in July Night on July 22 will be the culmination of a season-long event. There will be a food collection at every home game for non-perishable food items and Christmas in July will be the final night of the series, held in partnership with the Bolt Church of God Food Bank.
Something else new for fans is a text alert service. Any fan who texts the words “Miners Baseball” to 35651 will receive notifications of rainouts, reminders of promotions and other services on their mobile devices.
Fans who register for the service before the May 31 home opener will be eligible to win an Opening Day Experience. It includes two game tickets and various food and merchandise prizes.
Fans who sign up after May 31 will be eligible for a grand prize to be given away at the end of the season.
Teachers will also be recognized by the Miners this summer. Nominations for teachers to be rewarded are being accepted through July 11. Teachers from high school, middle school and elementary school levels are being sought after.
Please e-mail your nominee’s name, school, grade taught and reasons why he or she should be recognized to Fritsch at email@example.com.
For more information on the season, visit the Miners website, www.wvminersbaseball.com.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.