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All aboard: Bluefield Baseball Club announces rebrand to Ridge Runners

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — The Bluefield Baseball Club now has a new name to go with its new formatted league with hopes of getting the community aboard.

On Tuesday, the club announced a rebranding to the Bluefield Ridge Runners, reflective of the rich railroad history of the Bluefield area. The team had been named the Bluefield Blue Jays since 2011 but lost its affiliation with Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays over the offseason in a transition for the Appalachian League.

The summer wood-bat league is comprised of 10 teams sponsored by USA Baseball and powered by MLB. The players in the league will be 320 college, non-draft-eligible college freshmen and sophomores currently in the player development pipeline.

Rocky Malamisura

Rocky Malamisura, General Manager of Bluefield, told the media Tuesday that the team can market and brand things differently because of more independence. He expects merchandise to be available for sale in about six weeks.

“This will be a little bit different than what we have been able to do in the past. We were locked into a single logo, a single hat, a single t-shirt. Now we have a little more flexibility,” Malamisura said.

The Ridge Runners was one of over 125 names submitted by fans and sponsors. Malamisura said after an exhaustive effort of due diligence, the list was pared down to five contenders. The final decision was made after all legal hurdles had been cleared and artwork for the logo was approved.

Malamisura noted the club’s legal hurdles consisted of approval from a private entity who also used the name Ridge Runners.

This is the second time in more than nine decades of baseball in Bluefield that the team’s name was not determined by its parent club. Other names consisted of the Bluefield Blue Jays (2011–2020), Bluefield Orioles (1958–2010), Bluefield Dodgers (1957) and the Bluefield Blue-Grays (1937–1942, 1946–1955).

A press release from the team mentioned the original Ridge Runner train in 1964 circumnavigated a one-mile loop atop East River Mountain, half in Virginia and half in West Virginia. It straddles Bowen Field at Peters Park and now resides just outside the right-field wall of Bowen Field.

Malamisura is hopeful for community support of the team. He said the club first heard they may lose baseball in October 2019. The new league, which will consist of a 54-game game wood-bat season from June to August with an All-Star Game and playoffs, was announced in September 2020.

“I have to get the wall sign sold, get the sponsorships sold, advertising in the programs. I have to get our sponsored nights at the ballpark done,” Malamisura said of the next steps.

Princeton also has a club in the Appalachian League but it is one of two clubs in the league that has yet to announce is rebranding.

The future of baseball in Charleston with the West Virginia Power remains in limbo, as no announcement about a league has been made following the announcement of lost MLB affiliation.