Feb 042013


Monday, February 4, 2013

Baseball, the late Major League Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote, is designed to break your heart, since the game is played in the warmth of the summer sun and the season ends in the fall, when the memory of those sunny days is most needed. It is a sentiment shared by fans of the sport in this region, who find themselves without an area team for the first time in generations.

A local group of investors and business leaders hopes to change that by raising money to conduct a study of whether a minor-league team would generate sufficient support among Greenville residents and its potential economic impact. The idea is attractive, and though a massive investment in public money would seem imprudent, organizers’ efforts certainly deserve community support.

From 1937 to 1952, eastern North Carolina served as a hotbed of baseball, where teams like the Ayden Aces, Goldsboro Goldbugs, Williamston Martins and New Bern Bears competed in the Coastal Plain League. Our own Greenville Greenies, which played from 1937-41 and 1946-49, won the league title in their final year before the team was sold, a few years before the league followed it into history.

Some clubs managed to survive, most notable the Kinston Indians, which played for decades in Lenoir County’s Grainger Stadium before moving to Zebulon and becoming the Carolina Mudcats in 2012. The team’s departure sparked efforts to locate or found a baseball club here, with 30 area business and civic leaders donating a total of $10,000 toward the $50,000 needed to commission a feasibility study by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

There is little doubt that this region holds a deep affinity for the sport itself. Summer afternoons and evenings are consumed by the game, when it seems every available diamond in the city is occupied by ballplayers of various ages. The city championship is a massive event each year and Greenville now hosts multi-station region tournaments. East Carolina University and Pitt Community College annually produce teams that compete on a national level.

But that does not guarantee success for a minor-league squad should one begin play, nor that the investment would reap larger economic benefits. There is great potential, however, and an examination of the merits would certainly be welcome. Until that study is conducted and reviewed, Greenville residents will have to make do with dreams of days spent playing on lush green outfields under a warm summer sun.

via The Daily Reflector.


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