West Virginia Black Bears Opening Day Preview

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The inaugural season for the West Virginia Black Bears, Short-Season Single A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, begins tonight, June 19th. The Black Bears will take on the Mahoning Valley Scrappers before a sold out Monongalia County Ballpark in Granville, West Virginia. Since the Black Bears share the facility with the West Virginia University baseball team and Granville is considered Morgantown by most people, we will just refer to it as Morgantown as well. The actual location of the ballpark is in a shopping area know as University Town Centre. The ballpark itself is a brand new twenty one million dollar facility that just opened in April 2015 with a seating capacity of 3,500. The dimensions of the field are 325 ft down the lines, 375 ft to left and right center, and 400 ft to center. The playing surface is artificial turf.

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Prior to the move to Morgantown, the team was based in Jamestown, New York and nicknamed the Jammers. The Black Bears will just replace the Jammers in the New York Penn League. They join the Auburn Doubledays, Batavia Muckdogs, Mahoning Valley Scrappers, State College Spikes and the Williamsport Crosscutters in the Pinckney Division. Last season the Jammers finished second in the division behind State College.

I can come up with a couple advantages to having a minor league affiliate just over an hour away from the big league team. First, it allows the fans the chance to see future Pirates that are just starting out in the system. Many fans will then follow these players as they make the journey through the various levels and hopefully someday get to see them on the big stage, PNC Park. However, I feel the biggest advantage is that the location makes it a prime spot for injury rehab starts for players recovering from injury. This would be the case for current Pirates or even possibly players from the Triple A Indianapolis Indians or the Double A Altoona Curve. We had previously told you in our weekly Pirates Minor League Report that Pirates top pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow was getting built back up and his return to Altoona wasn’t known. On Thursday afternoon, Stephen Nesbitt of the Post-Gazette tweeted that Tyler Glasnow could be headed to Morgantown for a rehab start in the Black Bears very first game.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Black Bears later confirmed the news.

While this news takes the level of excitement up even higher, the list of recently drafted players who have been assigned to the Black Bears already set the bar high. Let’s take a look at these players.

First Round Pick: Infielder Kevin Newman and Second Round Pick: Infielder Kevin Kramer 

Third Rount Pick: Casey Hughston, Sixth Round Pick: Pitcher Johnathan “JT” Brubaker, Seventh Round Pick: INF Mitchell Tolman and Ninth Round Pick: Pitcher Bret Helton

Eleventh Round Pick: C Christian Kelley, Twelfth Round Pick: OF Ty Moore, Sixteenth Round Pick: Pitcher Nick Hibbing, Twenty-Fifth Round: Logan Hill and Twenty-Eighth Round: Albert Baur

Below you find the Black Bears current roster. The Black Bears are lead by Manager Wyatt Toregas, Pitching Coach Tom Filer and Hitting Coach Johnathan Prieto. First up is the pitching roster. The first segment shows the current pitching staff. Of course, Tyler Glasnow is listed on the roster but will likely be removed once he completes his rehab start.

Next up is the position players, please remember that positions aren’t always correct on a minor league roster as the major league team may want to see guys playing different positions and those positions could change at any time.

We at Rum Bunter added the Pirates Minor League Report as a weekly segment several weeks ago as part of our goal to provide a one stop site for all things Pirates. Today, I am happy to announce that Rum Bunter will also be providing expanded coverage of the West Virginia Black Bears.

Perhaps we can call it another advantage to having a Minor League Affiliate close to the Major League club.

Next: 2015 Pirates pitching is magic

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