BELPRE - An informative meeting for the public about the prospects of bringing an independent Frontier League baseball franchise to the Mid-Ohio Valley was held Tuesday evening inside the Belpre City Council chambers.
Although a plethora of things still have to happen, which includes a feasibility study down the road, the people in attendance at the meeting overwhelmingly showed their support for bringing a franchise back to the area.
Parkersburg City Development Director Ann Conageski gave a PowerPoint-style presentation while Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell and Sam Winans, a co-chairman of the sports committee for the Wood County Economic Development Authority, spoke and fielded questions from the audience.
Sam Winans, a co-chairman of the sports committee for the Wood County Economic Development Authority, addresses the gathering Tuesday at Belpre City Hall about the proposal of bringing a Frontier League baseball franchise to the Mid-Ohio Valley area. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
"I'm interested to see what other people have to say," said retired Belpre resident Larry Brandeberry before the meeting actually got under way. "Maybe (this will work) if they can build a ballpark and they can have more events."
That's exactly what the plan is. The idea is to build a park somewhere in the Mid-Ohio Valley, possibly at Fort Boreman Hill.
"It may work or it may not," Winans said of the spot at Fort Boreman Hill. "We're not married to Fort Boreman. In our opinion it's a perfect spot. It would be a crown jewel in the Mid-Ohio Valley."
Another meeting for the public is set to take place at 7 p.m. next Tuesday at the Marietta City Council, which is located at Lookout Park.
"At some point we have to move forward with this or the Frontier League will move on," added Winans, who is hoping a large contingent of interested people show up at the next meeting.
Mayor Newell said he was excited about "the possibility of having a minor league baseball team. We're here to tell people about the project. This is not a government project."
Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz concurred with Newell at that end of the meeting that this endeavor is indeed "going to be a regional thing."
Of course, the biggest question mark aside from determining the potential site and whether the project can actually become a reality is the funding.
While investors from outside the area are indeed interested Winans noted they were "not finding a lot of financing in the Mid-Ohio Valley."
Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau President Mark Lewis, who was part of a delegation which went in April to visit the Washington Wild Things complex in Pennsylvania, noted this "is a tremendous opportunity. It's a great thing for the community and it would be a tourist attraction as well."
The Frontier League was formed in 1993 and is the oldest current running independent league. The Ohio Valley Redcoats, who played at Bennett Stump Field inside Parkersburg's City Park, had a franchise for the first six years of the league and came back to the area for one season in 2005.
Chris Jakubauskas of the 2005 Redcoats spent three seasons in Major League Baseball with Seattle (2009), Pittsburgh (2010) and most recently with the Baltimore Orioles in 2011 when he made 33 appearances. Jakubauskas went 5-4 with a 3.34 ERA for the Redcoats, whose most famous player was former big leaguer Brendan Donnelly. Donnelly was a member of the 2002 World Series champion Anaheim Angels, winning Game 6, and was an all-star in 2003.