While Wilmington (N.C.) is giddy over the potential arrival of a team, fans of the Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League) are dreading the team’s potential departure.
It’s the flip side to the happy story when a new team arrives in a new market: the market losing the team, creating a loss for local fans (as chronicled here by Darrell Laurant). In the case of Lynchburg, it’s an especially sad story: the Lynchburg Baseball Corporation was founded in 1962 and has guided the team through some big changes over the years, including ballpark upgrades. But times change, and with the loss of the Kinston Indians this season, it’s a pretty good bet the team will finish last in the Carolina League in attendance; last year the team drew 2,454 fans per game. Respectable, but in this day and age more is expected.
If the Braves do exercise an option to buy the Hillcats and move the team to Wilmington, Atlanta officials have promised a replacement team — probably the Danville Braves (rookie; Appalachian League), which will surely be seen as a step down by many Lynchburg fans. (Yes, cue the speculation about another Appy League or a summer-collegiate team filling the gap in Danville.) And it will be. But more importantly, it will be a loss of control for the locals, as the Braves would retain ownership of the team.
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