Though Wilmington voters rejected a new-ballpark plan that would have brought the Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League) to North Carolina, the team’s long-term future at Calvin Falwell Field is far from assured.
There may have been some premature celebration among Hillcats fans when the ballpark referendum went down in Wilmington. Two things are true here: once a team is in play, it usually ends up somewhere else even if an initial deal falls through; and the Atlanta Braves still have an option to buy the team. Given that there are a few cities in the Carolina League footprint that could host a relocated Hillcats — Kinston, for instance — and Atlanta’s desire to control all levels of player development, it’s far from certain the Hillcats have a long-term future in Lynchburg.
To his credit, Hillcats GM Paul Sunwall warns of this very situation. From the News & Advance:
So what about the future of the Hillcats? The general manager said the “Braves haven’t indicated any other plans at this time in what they want to pursue, and they haven’t really commented on the future here past the next two years, either.”
Sunwall, who is optimistic about the Hillcats’ future, was exactly right when he said, “I think the fans are going to be relieved that the Carolina League team is not leaving. We’ll be here for who knows how much longer. But right now, I’d say we’re good to go for a good while.”
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