Minor league baseball is synonymous with Charleston. Sure, there have been interruptions here and there, but minor league ball in West Virginia’s capital city goes all the way back to the early 1900s, and has, for a majority of its run, had an affiliation with Major League Baseball.
Things were looking glum for the West Virginia Power after the nearby Pittsburgh Pirates dropped the team as its low-A minor league affiliate two years ago. At the time, the Power had the lowest attendance figures of any other team in the South Atlantic League. The Seattle Mariners stepped in last year, and it seemed an odd fit. Not surprisingly, the Mariners dropped their affiliation.
During all of this, the Power appeared on a list of several minor league teams that MLB was considering dropping all together. The Power couldn’t really do anything to help itself in 2020, with the entire season scrubbed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So it was disheartening, although not unexpected, when MLB officially cut its affiliation with the West Virginia Power this month, along with several other teams in the region — including the Power’s de facto rivals, the Lexington Legends.
The Power’s ownership group seems determined to field a team and have games played at Power Park next summer, if not the spring, as well. Hopefully, they will. But what that will look like is very much up in the air.
It is possible, although not highly likely, that the Power could end up with an MLB affiliation in the coming season if other Single A teams still part of the professional mix fold or, for some reason, can’t or don’t sign on to continue. That would be fantastic for Charleston, although unfortunate for those other teams.
What is more likely is the Power joining one of the independent leagues that play shorter schedules over the summer and feature mainly college players or former major leaguers past their prime who are looking for one last shot. That’s not great, but it’s better than nothing for the team, the city and the surrounding area.
West Virginia has lost so much over the years. Losing baseball in Charleston would be another punch to the gut. But there is hope. An independent league wouldn’t be as great as an MLB affiliation, but it would be something. And it doesn’t mean the Power is forever separated from the big leagues. Minor league teams shift affiliations all the time. Teams in smaller cities shuffle around, and they get picked up by Major League clubs.
Hopefully, the Power can continue operations and eventually rejoin with an MLB franchise. Baseball is as much a part of Charleston as the Kanawha River is, and it’s something the city shouldn’t lose. Whatever form the team takes next year, everyone who can needs to support it so it can continue and, hopefully, thrive.