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Brian Dozier released

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Will Baseball Die in the Minor League’s City of Champions?

Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Elizabethton, Tennessee has been home to minor league baseball for over 45 years. Twelve championships have been won and over 120 eventual major league players have spent time playing here. Now those days might be over. Contraction was likely coming, but MLB’s delayed season likely means baseball’s death in Elizabethton.
Image courtesy of © Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Multiple reports surfaced last week that Minor League Baseball was prepared to accept MLB’s proposal to eliminate more than 40 teams. Short-season and rookie ball would be eliminated but they would like to work out a deal where baseball could continue for the long-term in those cities. After these reports surfaced, MiLB responded and clarified that no agreements had been reached between the two parties.

Many insiders believe MLB will use the loss of revenue from 2020 as the final push to get their desired outcome for Minor League Baseball. Some of the leagues are in need of reconfiguration to cut back on travel and other costs. Also, some of the facilities have been sorely ignored throughout the years and are hardly suitable for preparing athletes for the big-leagues.

The E-Twins started play in 1974 and until recently, have seen few upgrades to the team’s facilities. Small clubhouses, no weight room and poor fan amenities were part of Elizabethton. In October 2018, the Twins agreed to upgrade the home clubhouse and add many modern training amenities. This could be one reason Minnesota might push to continue a partnership with the city of Elizabethton.

Ray Smith, the manager in Elizabethton, might be the biggest reason for the team’s success. He took over the managerial role at age 31, just one year after retiring from his professional playing career. He spent all but two professional seasons in the Twins organization including all his big-league playing time. In those three MLB seasons, he was a light-hitting catcher as he ended his career hitting .219/.259/.270 (.529), while earning the nickname “Quality or Qualls.”

He brought that quality approach to his minor league managerial role. Last season’s E-Twins finished one game below .500 and that ended a streak of 30 straight seasons with a .500 record or better. That’s not a typo; it’s a culture of winning. Smith has won 10 Appy League crowns, over 1000 regular season wins and guided the team to the playoffs in 14 of the last 17 seasons.

Elizabethton has been a rite of passage for many of the team’s greatest players. After being taken with the first overall pick, Joe Mauer took his first professional swings in an E-Twins uniform. In 32 games, he hit .400/.492/.491 (.983) with eight extra-base hits. Like Mauer, Kirby Puckett started his pro career in Elizabethton with a .928 OPS and 21 extra-base hits across 65 games. Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti made stops there on the way to being World Series heroes.

The E-Twins are part of the fabric of the Minnesota Twins organization and now that fabric has a good chance of being torn.
Do you think E-Twins will ever play another game as an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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7 Comments

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VivaBomboRivera!
Apr 28 2020 12:30 AM

Boo!

It will be very sad when Elizabethton is no longer part of the organization.The more I read about what they want, however, I understand it makes sense.

 

Perhaps something good will come to the Appy League.If the draft and signings are cut to say, 20 rounds, what will happen to all those college seniors who go undrafted?I have seen hints that there would be leagues where these players would go to play a short season and kind of audition to get signed to a big league contract. 

 

Perhaps there will be some type of affiliation with a major league team which would provide minimal financial support, maybe not.The Appy League might be ideal for this type of league.Unfortunately, Elizabethton is so small the economics might not work.Gonna be a lot of change as America and the sports world comes out of our crisis.Not certain I am going to like what we have next year and beyond that.  

    • Seth Stohs and Nine of twelve like this
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theBOMisthebomb
Apr 28 2020 10:27 AM

It will be very sad when Elizabethton is no longer part of the organization.The more I read about what they want, however, I understand it makes sense.
 
Perhaps something good will come to the Appy League.If the draft and signings are cut to say, 20 rounds, what will happen to all those college seniors who go undrafted?I have seen hints that there would be leagues where these players would go to play a short season and kind of audition to get signed to a big league contract. 
 
Perhaps there will be some type of affiliation with a major league team which would provide minimal financial support, maybe not.The Appy League might be ideal for this type of league.Unfortunately, Elizabethton is so small the economics might not work.Gonna be a lot of change as America and the sports world comes out of our crisis.Not certain I am going to like what we have next year and beyond that.

I am afraid that piling COVID-19 on top of the existing MiLB contraction plan is not good news to franchises such as Elizabethton. I can see new independent leagues popping up if the economy kick starts and society can get back to large gatherings such as baseball games. That might not be until 2022 at the earliest that a new league could get started. There are lots of obstacles that didn't exist even 60 days ago.
    • rdehring and Nine of twelve like this

 

It will be very sad when Elizabethton is no longer part of the organization.The more I read about what they want, however, I understand it makes sense.

 

Perhaps something good will come to the Appy League.If the draft and signings are cut to say, 20 rounds, what will happen to all those college seniors who go undrafted?I have seen hints that there would be leagues where these players would go to play a short season and kind of audition to get signed to a big league contract. 

 

Perhaps there will be some type of affiliation with a major league team which would provide minimal financial support, maybe not.The Appy League might be ideal for this type of league.Unfortunately, Elizabethton is so small the economics might not work.Gonna be a lot of change as America and the sports world comes out of our crisis.Not certain I am going to like what we have next year and beyond that.  

 

I hate to see E-Town not be a Twins affiliate... Ray Smith and Jeff Reed alone deserve better.I hope they stay in the organization if they want.

 

I do wonder if the Appalachian League might become an independent league, or even a college wood bat league... I think something like that could happen in towns where they want such a thing. 

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IndianaTwin
Apr 28 2020 10:09 PM

Close to 20 years ago, I was in next-door Johnson City for an indoor track and field meet and took advantage of a break to drive over to Elizabethton to see if I could find the ballpark. 

 

After I got home, I told people how I'd stopped by this minor league park where I was able to talk to the assistant general manager, the head groundskeeper, the assistant groundskeeper, the ticket manager, the p.r. guy, their souvenir shop manager and probably a couple more positions. Then I'd say, "Of course, that was all the same guy." 

 

He was about ready to head to spring training, and a new batch of caps had come in. I don't remember if he gave me one or if I had to buy it, but I still wear that E-Twins cap proudly and think of that day each time I pull it out of the closet. It would be a bummer to have them go away, because I never was able to get back there for a game. 

 

    • gil4 and DocBauer like this

 

I hate to see E-Town not be a Twins affiliate... Ray Smith and Jeff Reed alone deserve better.I hope they stay in the organization if they want.

 

I do wonder if the Appalachian League might become an independent league, or even a college wood bat league... I think something like that could happen in towns where they want such a thing. 

Haven't both become locals, Seth?If memory serves, at least one ended up in Elizabethton because he married a gal from there.Considering how long both have been coaching this team, gotta believe they are getting to the age that they will not want to upset their lives and move elsewhere.Hopefully, there will still be something there for them to be involved in.

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Nine of twelve
Apr 29 2020 04:27 PM

It seems that reducing the number of minor league players (and teams) is an inevitable change. But I don't think rookie league is the place to do that. I think it makes more sense to eliminate the low-A level. My wife has relatives in Cedar Rapids who are Twins (and Kernels) fans, and I'm sure they would be very sad, but no matter which level(s) are eliminated it will be a tough transition for many people.


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