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BAKER'S SPORTS PEN: NEW WILLIAMSPORT BASEBALL TEAM IS EXCITING NEWS FOR AREA FANS (2020-12-05)

Area baseball fans received some exciting news recently with the announcement of the new Major League Baseball Draft (wood bat) League coming to a minor league stadium near you – say like -- Williamsport.

The new league will feature draft-eligible players who have completed their junior year in college. It will offer them an opportunity to improve their skills and showcase their potential Major League talents to numerous scouts prior to next July’s big-league draft.

With Major League Baseball scaling down its total number of minor league affiliates, Williamsport was on the short end of the bat – until now. Bowman Field would have been unable to keep up with the costs of updating its facilities to the new standards recently established by the majors. Now, the Williamsport Crosscutters have been reborn thanks to the new league.

Most-recently affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies and the short-season, New York-Penn League, the Crosscutters were scheduled to be taken off the roster of the Phillies’ minor league teams.

Although not partnered with the Phillies in the new league, Historic Bowman Field will once again come alive with the sounds of spring and summer baseball.

The league, officially announcing play this past week, will feature teams in four former New York-Penn League stops like Mahoning Valley (Ohio), West Virginia, State College, and Billtown. Also in the mix is Trenton, N.J., the former Class AA affiliate of the New York Yankees. Talks are underway with a potential sixth city. The NYPL is no longer acting as a professional league.

The Draft League will be working closely with Prep Baseball Report, a highly-regarded nationwide scouting service. It will set up the 30-man rosters for the potential 180 of the nation’s top-ranked players.

A 68-game schedule will begin after the collegiate season concludes in early May and run through mid-August. An all-star break in July will coincide with the MLB All-Star break – the new time of the professional draft. Players selected may stay with their summer league team or could report to their new pro teams. Additional players will get a chance to fill in any depleted rosters.

Major League Baseball is in the process of potentially dropping 40 minor league teams this coming year as part of its slimming down process – leaving Major League organizations with only four affiliates per squad plus one group of players at any minor league complex organization.

The new league is expected to have enough players to fill its rosters as the professional draft is now only host to 20 rounds instead of the usual 40. There could also be some elite high school players seeing action in the new league.

Major League Baseball will select the coaches for the new league. It would be special to see some former MLB players sprinkled in among that group. It will also be assisting in setting up technology to provide the best scouting information available to the big-league clubs.

The Crosscutters have announced they will keep tickets prices at the same cost of previous seasons as baseball fans will get an opportunity to see the “Stars of the Future.”

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Sports Pen “best wishes” to Ryan Napp, Rob Gentile and Marshall McNeal as they return to the basketball coaches’ box.

Napp will be back at the helm of the Towanda boys’ squad, and Gentile will be taking over the girls’ program. McNeal returns to the sidelines as he will once again works with the Troy girls’ program.

All have had successful runs in the coaching ranks prior to this upcoming campaign – Napp at Towanda, Gentile at both Athens and Troy, plus McNeal at Troy under the tutelage of standout coach Carol Lane.

Towanda, Troy and the Northern Tier League got a trio of excellent recruits.

In a normal world, we would all be excited over the start of a new winter sports season. In these abnormal times, we are forced to wait. However, with each new day, there is hope on the horizon. It will be sooner than we think when we can all return to the gymnasiums as players, coaches, statisticians, parents, fans, referees, scorekeepers, cheerleaders, band members, writers, photographers and radio announcers taking part in what we all enjoy best … HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS.

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Bob Baker was the longtime sports editor of The Daily Review in Towanda, Pa. More recently, he has been a radio voice of NTL high school sports on several Bradford County radio stations. He is currently a regular contributor as a columnist for River Road Media Group’s Northern Tier Sports Report and Valley Sports Report.

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