It was billed as an extension of the player development contract between Tampa Bay and Princeton, although in the Appalachian League teams are owned by MLB parents and managed by local organizations — in this case, the Princeton Baseball Association. The extension of the agreement between the Rays and Princeton Baseball Association was met locally as very good news. In fact, the hard work of the Princeton Baseball Association to upgrade Hunnicutt Field was cited by Rays officials as behind their decision to commit to 2020. From the Bluefield Daily Telegraph:
“I think there was a lot of work and effort to bring things up to standards over the last year and it seems like some of the things you have in mind for the future are improvements on top of that and I am excited to see how that plays out,” said Jeff McLerran, the Assistant Director of Minor League Operations for the Tampa Bay Rays. “I think that is everybody’s hope that this continues to be a really blossoming relationship. We think this past year with the improved communication and dialogue between us and the association gives us a lot of confidence that is going to happen. I appreciate everything you guys have done and we will continue to work at this and get this ball on that right track.”
Expect those improvements to continue over the next three years and beyond, with Sarver — who is the co-owner of Main Street Builders in Princeton — filled with ideas on what can be done to not only enhance the experience for the players and coaches, but for the fans as well.
“I think it is safe to say that we worked through some of the major facility issues last year, but now we are kind of a wish list path,” said Adam Sarver, who was inspired to help the PBA through the influence of his grandfather Buck Sarver. “During the negotiations to renew or do another contract there wasn’t really talk between all of us that you have to do this or we won’t come back. I take comfort in knowing it is our renewed optimism to operate better and do better things and hopefully that is where all the confidence is coming from you guys. I am very confident that we will continue on further than the three years.”
It’s more good news for the Appalachian League, which was written off for dead a decade ago but since has seen a revival with increased attendance and upgraded operations in markets like Pulaski and Johnson City. In Greeneville, three MLB teams vied to replace the Astros, though a final decision has not been made.