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West Virginia Power baseball team joins Atlantic League

CHARLESTON — A professional baseball team in West Virginia has joined the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball and will continue to play at Appalachian Park in Charleston, the club announced.

West Virginia Power will join the Lexington Legends going into the new Major League Baseball Partner League, club officials said Wednesday morning. The Power and Legends will replace the Somerset Patriots and Sugar Land Skeeters, which moved to the Professional Development League as a part of MLB’s new 120-team professional development system.

The Atlantic League includes eight teams. The 2021 season begins May 28.

West Virginia Power also announced Andy Shea, president and CEO of the Lexington Legends, will take over as managing partner and CEO. Jesse Scaglion, director of corporate sales for the Legends, has been named the club’s chief operating officer. Tim Wilcox will remain as a partner in the Power’s ownership group.

“We are very excited about joining the Atlantic League and bringing a significantly higher level of talent to the field. Off the field, we are delighted to expand on the affordable family fun at Appalachian Power Park,” Shea said.

The future of professional baseball in West Virginia was questionable after Minor League Baseball in October 2019 considered reducing the number of teams, affecting at least three of the four franchises in Bluefield, Charleston, Morgantown and Princeton. In September, Major League Baseball and USA Baseball announced a new format for the Appalachian League that included the clubs in Princeton and Bluefield featuring rising college freshmen and sophomores, and in Morgantown, the West Virginia Black Bears are in the Major League Baseball Draft League for eligible college players.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., cited the West Virginia Power development in a press conference Thursday about her opposition to the COVID-19 relief package pending in Congress. She was enthusiastic about the announcement.

“It’s America’s pastime. West Virginians love it and it’s great family fun,” said Capito, who was a third baseman for a congressional women’s softball team. Last year’s game was canceled because of the pandemic.

“You’re going to be able to see some of the best players in the world right here in West Virginia,” Gov. Jim Justice said during his COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.

Justice, Capito, Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have been involved since Major League Baseball in 2019 announced the reduction in minor league teams.

“I am proud of the resiliency of the team and coaches and truly believe that the Atlantic League will give West Virginia Power the opportunity to grow and thrive,” Manchin said.

Jess Mancini can be reached at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com.

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