Fieldhouse Report, 07.14.2020

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Due to COVID-19, MiLB cancelled its 2020 season (photo – Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

July 14, 2020 (Asheville, N.C.) With so much uncertainty at the major league level on the resumption of play, it seemed increasingly inevitable in June that any affiliated minor league baseball season would need to be scuttled. That inevitability became a reality on June 30 when MiLB announced that it was canceling the 2020 season.

Locally, that translates into the Tourists being sidelined for the summer. In the past week, the team made the most of an empty stadium and a challenging situation when they announced the opening of McCormick’s Summer Grill at McCormick Field. Fans can enjoy the rare opportunity to eat on a minor league baseball field without dodging liners and the team will offer a portion of its ballpark menu for diners.

College Football —  Area college football (including Western Carolina, Mars Hill, and Brevard) will likely make initial decisions on the conference level as to fall play this season. Nationally, there’s been a steady stream of updates on anticipated play, including the cancellation of the Ivy League fall sports seasons. The PAC-12 and Big-10 have announced conference-only seasons, with that still subject to change. The New York Times recently ran an excellent article on the probability, or lack thereof, of college football this fall. 

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Parting Shot: Fans watch Georgia Tech football during the 1918 pandemic. (photo – Georgia Tech)

 

 

Fieldhouse Baseball Report, 06.13.2020

    

ASHEVILLE, NC (June 13, 2020) — Tourists Baseball — Minor League Baseball (MiLB) remains in something more troubling than limbo as 2020 continues with no sign of a return of baseball. At the game’s highest level, MLB and the MLB Players Association cannot agree on how or when to begin a 2020 season. Given that, there is nothing that MiLB teams can do to size up rosters that are effectively set by their major league affiliates.

Compounding that, this past offseason MLB indicated its desire to pare 42 teams (following the 2020 campaign) from the ranks of the 160 teams that currently comprise the affiliated minor leagues. The Asheville Tourists (as well as the Greenville Drive), fortunately, were not included on that list. That removes one layer of concern, but still leaves open the question of how long a minor-league team can exist without baseball. Teams in the greatest peril are those that funded recent expansions, or new ballparks, with bond issuances that they will have difficulty servicing.

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Furman baseball will not return in 2021 (photo – T. Flynn)

College Baseball — More disappointing news for area baseball fans included the announcement in mid-May that Furman would be permanently discontinuing its program, as well as its men’s lacrosse program. The program dated back 118 years, and last advanced to the NCAA Regionals in 2005. 

The program cuts were to reduce costs, as both baseball and lacrosse have (relatively) large rosters and are non-revenue sports. Reducing college athletic programs is occurring nationwide during the pandemic. It is an unfortunate development. University accounting departments often lack the ability to conceptualize and assign an intrinsic valuation to teams that serve as cost centers in operating budgets.

Football budgets, when treated as revenue centers at the Division I level, are much more readily understood by both internal staff and boosters.

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Parting Shot: Liberty Street, Greenville, 07.2018 (photo/T. Flynn)

Fieldhouse Baseball Report, 04.10.2020

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Guilford College’s McBane Field (photo T. Flynn)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (April 10, 2020) — Baseball – Greensboro’s Guilford College (pictured) and all the state’s college baseball diamonds closed for the spring sometime around mid-March due to the current COVID-19 crisis. While college baseball is officially done for the 2020 season, the status of the state’s minor and college summer leagues remains up in the air. 

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Mgr. Robinson Cancel (r) and the Tourists’ 2020 season is on hold (photo — T. Flynn)

On March 12, MiLB made a formal announcement about the indefinite delay of the 2020 season, which the Asheville Tourists posted to their website. MiLB’s site continues to post updates on their own site, understandably with nothing yet that indicates when the season might start. It did announce that fans looking to see baseball can watch archived MiLB.tv (typically a paid service) for free until play resumes.

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Mickey Mantle, second from right, 1956 (photo copyright — Marvin E. Newman)

Books With life as we’ve come to know it on hold due to the pandemic, a trip to a local Asheville bookstore to see what this spring’s new baseball books hold isn’t the easy thing it once was. To fill the gap, there are more baseball books than can ever be read already in print, many of them unfortunately worth missing. Such is not the case for The Classic Mantle by Buzz Bissinger which includes a plentiful serving of photos from Marvin E. Newman. With due deference to Bissinger’s well-paced storytelling, Newman’s photos make it worth the purchase. Here’s a review of the book from the summer of 2015, when I first came across the keeper.

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The Tourists’ Will Golsan in 2019 action (photo – T. Flynn)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (December 17, 2019) — Tourists Baseball — As reported nationally last month, Major League Baseball (MLB) is considering a major realignment of its current network of 160 affiliated minor-league teams. Plans call for the potential elimination of 42 currently-affiliated teams following the 2020 season when the existing Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) expires. The PBA governs the relationship between MLB and Minor League Baseball (MiLB). Some leagues, such as the 80-year-old Pioneer League, would be eliminated from affiliation in their entirety.

The Tourists were not listed on the 42-team “Hit List” (as it’s been informally dubbed) of teams targeted as candidates for unaffiliation. MLB cited multiple factors in their decision for which teams to potentially eliminate, including the proximity of a club to its parent organization.

The Colorado Rockies are the Tourists’ current parent, and the distance between Coors Field in Denver and Asheville’s McCormick Field is 1,447 miles, making speculation reasonable that the Tourists could align themselves with a new parent team following 2020. The 42-team list includes the teams directly above the Tourists (High Class-A Lancaster JetHawks) and a franchise below them (Rookie League Grand Junction Rockies), meaning in the very least there would be reconfiguring within the Rockies’ system. Even in non-PBA renewal years, a minor league team realigning with a new parent is a common occurrence for a variety of logistical and economic reasons.

Parent organizations typically pay for a minor league organization’s coaches and players, while the local franchise covers the cost of everything else (the field, equipment, uniforms, and travel, among other expenses). Teams eliminated from MLB affiliation would have the opportunity to join a proposed “Dream League” with rosters populated largely by undrafted and released players, and receiving a yet-to-be-defined level of support from MLB that would fall well short of the current financial arrangement provided with affiliation.

An additional alternative for newly unaffiliated teams would be aligning with existing independent leagues, such as the 21-year-old Atlantic LeagueIndependent leagues formally operate outside of MiLB, however, they routinely interact as players are signed and released from team rosters, with independent league players typically seeking a return to the improved advancement prospects of MiLB.

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Recently in Forbes by T. Flynn:

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Fieldhouse Report, 08.19.2019

Ashley Hughes 2019 Brevard College Soccer
WNC’s leading scorer in 2018, Ashley Hughes, returns to Brevard this fall as a coach (photo – Brevard Athletics)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (August 19, 2019) – College Soccer – As Western North Carolina’s women’s college soccer teams start into their 2019 schedules in the next two weeks, a familiar name will return to the sidelines at Brevard CollegeAshley Hughes, the top WNC scorer among all men’s and women’s soccer players last year, will return to Brevard this fall and serve under fourth-year head coach Juan Mascaro as a volunteer assistant coach.

Hughes holds the Brevard NCAA-era records for single-season goals scored (19), points (41), shots (81), shots-on-goal (50), games played (19), and games started (19). She was named Brevard’s female athlete-of-the-year in 2018-2019. 

The Tornados (11-8 in 2018) get underway on August 30 when they host Virginia’s Emory & Henry. The area’s other “Mountain Five” colleges/universities are also set to start their fall seasons. Opening games include Montreat (5-7-3, NAIA) vs. Pikeville (4:00 p.m., Aug. 24), Warren Wilson (7-6, USCAA) vs. Berea (4:00 p.m., Aug. 31), Mars Hill (3-12) at USC Upstate (7:00 p.m., Sept. 5), and Lees-McRae (3-13) at Lenoir-Rhyne (5:00 p.m., Sept. 5). 

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WCU begins their 2019 season on Sunday (photo – T. Flynn)

At the NCAA DI level, Western Carolina (8-8-2) gets underway on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. against Gardner-Webb. The UNCA Bulldogs (3-9-4) return to Greenwood Soccer Field to host American this Friday at 6:00 p.m. UNCA and Western Carolina are set to square off against each other on Wednesday, September 18, in Asheville. 

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This week in Forbes by Tom Flynn:

NC State Football 2019

Tourists Look for August Surge

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Terrin Vavra leads Asheville with a .318 average (photo – Tony Farlow/Four Seam Images)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (August 11, 2019) – Heading into Saturday’s game, the Tourists had a 26-21 record in the second half of the Sally League season, and were a half-game behind first-place Augusta in the circuit’s Southern Division. Asheville was 55-62 overall on the year.

The Lexington Legends captured the Southern Division first-half title and barring a late surge are unlikely to repeat as second-half champions, precluding the need for a wild-card team to face them in the playoffs. Relating that to Asheville, the Tourists will almost certainly need to finish in first place in this half of the year to make the postseason.  

Although currently on the seven-day injured list, second baseman Terrin Vavra is currently leading the Tourists in hitting and is second in the Sally League with a .318 batting average. Vavra was drafted in the third round of the 2018 MLB Draft as a shortstop out of the University of Minnesota.

In his last year with the Golden Gophers, the Menomonie, Wisconsin, native was part of a team that went 44-15 and bowed out in the Super Regional round to eventual-champion Oregon State. He hit .386 in his junior season to conclude his college career. Vavra spent the remainder of 2018 with the short-season Boise Hawks where he hit .302 in 44 games and made the jump to Asheville this spring. Early last month, Vavra was named the Sally League’s player of the month for June.

Leading the Tourists on the hill this season is reliever Jake Bird, who is 7-1 on the year with 36 appearances. Some of Bird’s most important work has come in recent weeks, as his last four appearances have each been for four or more innings and resulted in two Asheville wins. The right-hander from Newhall, California, is 11-2 lifetime in two seasons with the Rockies’ organization.

After concluding their current series with Greensboro on Sunday, the Tourists return home to McCormick Field to host the Rome Braves (23-24, 53-63) at 7:05 p.m. on Monday night.

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This week in Forbes by Tom Flynn:

NC State Football 2019

Photos: Tourists Vs. Blue Claws

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Asheville’s Coco Montes hit a two-run homer on Sunday (photo – T. Flynn)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (August 4, 2019)Tourists Baseball – Tourists’ starter Frederis Parra (below) got off to a rocky start on Sunday afternoon against the Lakewood Blue Claws, but Asheville’s bats quickly came to the rescue en route to a 13-6 victory. After the Blue Claws hit Parra early and often to open the game with a 2-0 lead, Asheville roared back with eight runs in the bottom of the first to take an 8-2 lead. The Tourists then scored in the next four innings to effectively seal the outcome. The win was the first in six attempts against Lakewood this season. Parra earned the victory and is now 2-1 on the year.

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Asheville hitters were aided by 11 walks from a Lakewood (18-23, 47-64) staff that struggled to find the plate, but had no trouble locating the batter’s box as Blue Claws’ pitcher hit three Tourists’ batsmen. Shortstop Coco Montes had just one hit in six at-bats but made it count when he drilled a two-run homer to right-center in the third inning. First baseman Grant Lavigne went 4-4 with an RBI, while Daniel Montano drove in four for Asheville (24-19, 53-60).

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The Tourists return to McCormick on Monday night to host the Blue Claws again. The first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.

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This week in Forbes by T. Flynn:

Mack Brown UNC Football Schedule UNC 2019

Tourists Walk Off With .500 Record

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Asheville’s c. 1924 McCormick Field (photo – T. Flynn)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (July 21, 2019) – Shortstop Terrin Vavra lined home the winning run on Saturday night in the bottom of the ninth to give Asheville a 3-2 walk-off win against the Rome Braves. The win pulled Asheville to an even 15-15 in the second half of the season and 44-56 overall in their 100th game of the 2019 campaign. It was the seventh walk-off win for the Tourists this year.

Rome (16-14, 46-53) drew even with Asheville in the top of the inning when Brendan Ventner doubled home Jose Bermudez to tie the game at two. In the bottom of the frame, the first two Asheville batters went down quietly before centerfielder Niko Decolati drilled a two-out double to centerfield off Braves’ reliever Ryan Shetter.  The left-handed-hitting Vavra then took a Shetter offering the opposite way on a line to left field, scoring Decolati and spilling the Tourists out on the field to mob the shortstop in celebration. Vavra has 12 hits in his last 10 games for Asheville and is batting .318 on the season.

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PJ Poulin, shown here earlier in 2019, picked up the win in relief (photo – T. Flynn)

Nick Bush started the game for Asheville and pitched 6.2 innings, allowing only one run. Reliever PJ Poulin was the beneficiary of Vavra’s game-winning single, picking up the win and moving to 3-3 on the season in 39 relief appearances.

Asheville and Rome returned to the diamond today at 2:05 p.m. in the series finale.

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This week in Forbes by T. Flynn:

USWNT

 

 

Fieldhouse Report, 07.02.2019

Asheville City Soccer Blues 2019
Molly Dwyer (center) celebrates after scoring the game-winner (photo – Isaac Bullman)

ASHEVILLE (July 2, 2019) – The Asheville City women’s team qualified for the WPSL postseason on Saturday in dramatic style with a 1-0 Pride Night win before a large crowd of 1,500+ at Memorial Stadium. Molly Dwyer put home a penalty kick in the game’s 86th minute to break up a 0-0 tie and propel the Blues to victory over Beaufort County FC (2-4-2) and into the playoffs. The team plays again on Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. in Raleigh against Oak City United in the Carolinas Conference semi-finals. 

Asheville City’s men’s soccer team is back at Memorial Stadium this Friday for the final regular season game for either club at home this year. The Blues face Atlanta SC, a team they defeated on May 18 in Atlanta by a 3-1 margin.

Asheville (4-3-2) was on the road last Saturday and dropped a 3-1 NPSL Southeast Conference decision to Chattanooga FC. On Friday night the team played to a 1-1 tie in a friendly against Georgia Revolution FC, in a game that saw the Blues feature a number of call-ups from their AC Academy team. Asheville earlier qualified for the NPSL postseason. Check back here for updates on their first playoff game.  

Books – Keep checking here for updates on the release of Underdog – Kim Conley & the Making of an Unexpected Olympian.” The book project is finishing up and will be released asap this summer. Please email admin@fieldhouseasheville.com with any questions and thanks for the patience. 

Asheville Tourists – On Monday night, the Tourists’ Greg Jones hit a walk-off grand slam in Hobbsian-style to propel Asheville to a 9-8 win over Lexington. Jones entered the game late as a defensive replacement in rightfield (Jones is a catcher) for a short-handed Tourists’ team. With the win, the Tourists won their second straight after Shelby Lackey picked up his third win of the season in a 6-1 defeat of Charleston on Sunday night.

Asheville (5-7 second half, 34-48 overall) faces Lexington (3-9, 40-41) again tonight with a first pitch set for 7:05 p.m. at McCormick Field

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The World’s Games. The World’s Stadiums.

Asheville City square

Fieldhouse Report, 06.28.2019

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The Tourists’ Shelby Lackey leads the team in innings pitched in 2019 (photo – Tony Farlow/Four Seam Images)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (June 28, 2019) – Tourists Baseball Asheville was on the road Friday night facing the Charleston RiverDogs in Charleston, South Carolina. The Tourists were 3-5 through eight starts in the second half of the Sally League season and even with the RiverDogs in the standings heading into the game.

The University of the Pacific (Calif.)’s Shelby Lackey proved the team’s innings workhorse in the first half of the 2019 campaign and will look to turn around his 2-7 overall mark in the second half of the season. The righty logged 70.2 innings of work, tops on the Asheville staff this year. He also struck out 82 batters while yielding 19 walks. 

The Linden, California, native was an 18th-round draft pick for the Rockies in 2018 after going a 6-3 record for the Pacific Tigers as a junior. Lackey spent last year with the short-season Boise Hawks and registered a 1.60 ERA in 21 appearances, paving the way for his promotion to Asheville at the start of this season.

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Asheville City’s Jamie Smith (photo – Isaac Bullman)

Asheville City – ACSC played a doubleheader at home on Tuesday night with mixed results. The men’s side opened the evening with a 0-0 tie against rival Greenville FC. The Blues were 4-2-3 within the NPSL following the match, and the draw with Greenville qualified them for the postseason. It also earned the Blues this year’s Carolina Clasico trophy. The two teams played to 2-2 and 0-0 draws this season, but Asheville City captured the annual series by virtue of total away goals (2). 

Asheville City was back in action at home on Friday night when they hosted Georgia Revolution FC at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

On Tuesday night, in the second game of the soccer twin bill, the Blue’s women’s side dropped a 2-0 decision to the Carolinas Conference-leading Charlotte Eagles (7-0-0). The Eagles have allowed just two goals this season in seven outings. The Blues (3-4-0) applied consistent pressure in the first half but failed to break through. Asheville City broke the WPSL single-game attendance record on Tuesday with 1,847 fans on hand for the game.

On Saturday, Asheville City hosts Beaufort County F.C. at Memorial at 7:30 p.m. If the Blues win, they earn a spot in the WPSL postseason.

Check back here for results from both games.

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