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Appalachian League eyes 2016 expansion

Appalachian LeagueWith MLB teams looking to add rookie-level teams, the Appalachian League could expand by two teams in 2016 after league officials considered 2015 changes.

League President Lee Landers says the topic came up at the Winter Meetings. Adding two teams for 2015 would basically be impossible — the league schedule had already been issued — but adding two for 2016 is on the table. Quite a change from several years ago, when other baseball publications writing that the league would be contracted in coming years. From the Times-News:

“We had looked into the possibility of expansion because we had some clubs that wanted to come in,” Landers said. “It had dragged for so long. We just had to pull the plug for this year. That’s not to say we aren’t going to revisit it.”

The league has 10 teams. Landers said two other organizations, which he declined to name, expressed interest in joining the rookie-level circuit.

The Appalachian League put out a schedule in November, so Landers said he knew at that point that the expansion wouldn’t be possible for 2015. Still, he said it was discussed in general terms during this month’s meetings in San Diego.

One possibility: a new team in Kinston at Grainger Stadium, the former home of the Kinston Indians (High Class A; Carolina League). While the K-Indians were not the best of draws, they did have a solid fan base that would be right in line with Appy League attendance. Kinston officials have held out for a return of professional baseball (as opposed to the summer-collegiate Coastal Plain League). When the owners of the Pulaski Mariners decided to call it a day and parent Seattle decided to pull the team, the New York Yankees quickly swooped in to establish a working relationship with new Pulaski owners, who invested in a renovation of Calfee Park this offseason. No word on what other MLB teams want a new rookie-level team.(The Appalachian League is governed by different rules than the rest of Minor League Baseball. That’s why expansion is a possibility: the number of teams in the league depends on the number of MLB teams wanting to field a team.)

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