Nothing says summer more than a day at the ballpark, and here in Mercer County, you have double the chance to see a game. You see, we have not one, but TWO teams in our area — the only county in WV that does — and they’re only about 10 miles apart from each other! Here’s the lowdown.
Part of the Appalachian League, The Bluefield Jays have been around since the early 20th century — the 1930s, specifically. Like a lot of things in our great state, coal mining is at the center of the team’s history. Baseball was encouraged as a morale-booster after the Mine Wars in 1921. The Jays were first known as the Bluefield Blue-Grays (affiliations: Boston Braves, Washington Senators and Boston Red Sox) before becoming the Dodgers (Brooklyn), then the Orioles (Baltimore). They have been affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays since 2011.
The team has had a number of notable players throughout their long-standing history, including three Hall of Famers: Cal Ripken Jr., Travis Jackson and Eddie Murray as well as Boog Powell, (4x MLB All-Star and the 1970 American League MVP), Don Baylor (MLB All-Star and 1979 American League MVP) and several others. You can catch a Jays game at Bowen Field at Peters Park in Bluefield.
The Princeton Rays, also part of the Appalachian League, were established in the 1980s. The team has been affiliated with Tampa Bay Rays since 1996. Prior to that, the Rays, which have also been known as the Pirates, Patriots, Reds and Devil Rays, were affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Prominent alums include
Rocco Baldelli (current manager of the Minnesota Twins), Carl Crawford (4x MLB All-Star), Jonny Gomes, Josh Hamilton (5 x MLB All-Star; 2010 American League Batting Title and 2010 American League MVP), Doug Johnson (NFL player), John Stearns (4x MLB All-Star) and others. The Rays play at H.P. Hunnicutt Field in Princeton.
But what’s baseball, or any sport, without a good old-fashioned rivalry? During the season, which runs through August, the Jays and Rays play 11 games against each other. The first of the series will be held at H.P. Hunnicutt Field on July 7. At the end of the series, the team that comes out ahead is awarded the coveted Mercer Cup.
Last year, the Rays were victorious. In 2017, the Jays came out on top. Who will take the Mercer Cup home this year? You’ll have to watch and see!
For more things to do while in town for a game, check out our Bluefield & Baseball Itinerary.
This post was last updated on June 24, 2019