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Joplin Blasters preparing for debut

Joplin BlastersThe Joplin Blasters, the newest team in the independent American Association, are prepping for their first regular-season game scheduled for Thursday night at historic Joe Becker Stadium.

WLD Suarez Baseball, owners of the former El Paso Diablos (the American Association iteration), worked with the city to prep Joe Becker Stadium for the pro franchise. It was a process that saw a change in plans: issues with the grandstand forced a reconstruction of the entire grandstand. From the Joplin Globe:

“The bleachers are done, the dugouts about 95 percent done. The bathrooms are done,” Joplin Parks and Recreation Director Chris Cotten said last week, ticking off a list recently in the final harried days before the Joplin Blasters open their season this week at the reconstructed stadium.

“The concession stand equipment is going in. They’re frantically working. It should all be buttoned up by the 19th,” Cotten said….

The city had at first planned a rehab of the stadium for the Blasters, but the concrete in the stands was found to be crumbling. That changed the plan to a complete rebuild at a cost of $4.8 million.

It’s been 50 years since affiliated ball departed from Joplin and Joe Becker Stadium. Mickey Mantle most famously spent the 1950 season as a member of the Joplin Miners, and the ballpark hosted barnstorming teams over the years featuring the likes of Stan Musial and Ken Boyer. Joe Becker Stadium is a small ballpark — 2,400 seats, with a total capacity of 4,200 — but preseason sales have gone well, and the ballpark could see a sellout before the Thursday opener. Before that, the Blasters will host two exhibition games to shake things out.

RELATED STORIES: Work begins on Joe Becker Stadium upgrades; Joplin approves American Association ballpark investment; Joplin to negotiate ballpark lease with Diablos owners; Diablos owners pitch Joplin on ballpark improvements; Diablos close out El Paso tenure; Diablos talking end of Cohen Stadium lease

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