Posted: April 26, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Text by Aaron New. Video by Chris Scopelliti. Graphic by Patrick Clarke.

It’s a cool April evening in Morgantown, W. Va. The Monongalia County Ballpark is alive with action between the West Virginia University Mountaineers, and the Thundering Herd of Marshall University. The baseball season for the two is just underway, and all the intense action amid the joyful applause and the electric atmosphere that one can usually find at a game here is ever present tonight.

The era of peanuts and crackerjacks may be long gone (if not, at least it’s evolved to $10 hot dogs and beer), but the sport of baseball reigns on as one of America’s favorite pastimes. People across the country flock by the millions annually to their favorite ballparks, rooting on teams that have been household names and family traditions for generations.

A New Era of Morgantown Sports

Coming new to the Morgantown landscape, the ballpark is the birthplace of new traditions for families, and a minor-league baseball team that seeks to bring the excitement of major events to a smaller locale for more to enjoy. Getting ready to enter its third season, the park is the newest addition to Morgantown’s sports line-up. Its home team, the West Virginia Black Bears, are sparking up interest in the community, quickly growing to be one of the best teams in their league, winning the New York-Penn League Championship after their second season.

“The Black Bears model is that every game is an event,” says Matthew Drayer, general manager of the team. “It’s more of a family outing or an entertainment ticket than just going to a baseball game.”

On this night, the Mountaineer Maniacs, a student fan club of sorts for their school’s sports teams, is giving away expensive electronics between innings, amid kids dancing on camera and throwing objects in a bin for food and other prizes.

A History, A New Home

Jamestown is a small city in southwestern New York, and up until the fall of 2014, the home of the Jammers, a Class-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates and member of the New York-Penn league.

Following reports that the team was looking to move, it was announced in August of 2014, after 20 years, that they would be moving to Morgantown, and changing their name to the West Virginia Black Bears.

The $21 million stadium broke ground in October of 2013, partially intended to also house the university’s baseball team. Twenty months after, the former Jammers cracked the bat on the new field, officially ending their life of two decades and hearkening in the Black Bears, and the first professional baseball team in Morgantown.

The ballpark itself is the stuff of movies. An extravagant turf field with seats for thousands (there is not one bad seat in the park, even if you go for concessions), hosting a background of the Monongahela River Valley and the beautiful mountains around it, allowing you to see for miles in every direction. It’s as if someone took the beauty and excitement of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park and condensed it down into a bite-sized piece before nesting it in arguably the most scenic location for a sports venue in the country.

Every night is excitement at the field. Despite what the final score for a game is, Drayer says, the staff at the ballpark aims to make sure that everyone has a great time, and based on the sheer amount of energy at the park on this night, they are doing a wonderful job.

graphic