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Baseball is back: East Tennessee Summer League opens

Joe Avento • Jun 8, 2020 at 8:45 PM

It was an experience many people missed even more than they realized.

The ping of the bat, the sound of the ball hitting the mitt, the smell of hot dogs on the grill, music on the loudspeakers as teams warmed up — baseball was back Monday night.

The East Tennessee Summer League, composed of teams representing area high schools, got underway at TVA Credit Union Ballpark in Johnson City and Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark in Elizabethton, and for the players and fans, it was a step toward a return to normalcy after the entire sports world had been shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve missed it,” said David Crockett coach Spencer Street, who plans to spend more time supervising than coaching. “It’s been a part of my life. There hasn’t been a spring that I haven’t been on a baseball field. I’ve been trying to keep up with the guys and make sure they’ve been staying prepared and luckily this whole thing got approved and we’re playing some baseball.”

JR Adkins, coaching the players from Cherokee, said he expected the baseball to be a little rusty, but nobody really cared about that — at least at first. They were just happy to be putting on the spikes and playing the game they love.

“Man, we’ve been waiting on this for a while now,” Adkins said. “The boys are excited. I’m excited. Everybody’s just happy to get back out and be playing some baseball.”

Crockett’s team is called The ’Boro. Cherokee is the Wahoos. Most teams didn’t use their school’s nicknames.

Some came up with interesting ones. The Science Hill players will be competing for a team called Home of Daniel Norris, in honor of the major leaguer who played at their school. Dobyns-Bennett is known as Team Whited, honoring the school’s late Hall of Fame coach, John Whited.

The league was put together by Boyd Sports, the organization that runs the Tennessee Smokies, Johnson City Cardinals, Elizabethton Twins and Greeneville Reds.

“I can’t thank those guys enough,” Adkins said. “To be able to put something like this together for these guys, I commend them. We were looking at nobody getting to play any ball. And to play on facilities like we’re playing on, this is great.”

The 16 Tri-Cities teams are grouped into the Eastern Division. Knoxville-area teams make up the Western Division and are playing at Smokies Stadium in Kodak. The two division winners are expected to meet in a one-game World Series at Smokies Stadium.

Street said he’s known Johnson City Cardinals General Manager Zac Clark for a while and Clark called him to see what kind of interest there might be for the league.

“He was able to get all this together, and for Boyd Sports and the Twins and Cardinals to open up their homes to us for the summer is a blessing,” Street said. “I know these guys have been dying to get back into it. It’s good to have them out here and we’re just thankful for the opportunity.”

The league gives the high school players a chance to play with their schoolmates, a chance they thought they lost when the spring sports season was canceled.

“I was really not happy about it, but really I felt bad for the seniors,” said Crockett’s Cody Wheeley, who will begin his senior year in the fall. “I am fortunate enough that I get to play next year if everything goes right. Those guys, their baseball careers got taken away and nobody saw it coming. The last game we played was just a shock at how quickly it can be taken away from you. We went out and played five games and they came back said, ‘You guys aren’t playing the rest of the year.’ ”

Cherokee’s Jesse Forgety was among those missing out on their senior season. He figured he’d probably never play in a baseball game again until he heard about the league. He’s definitely one of the most excited players.

“I didn’t think I’d be on the field again,” Forgety said. “It makes me real happy. It gives me a chance to finish the season in a way; more than three games, at least. I’m just going to go out there and have fun and play hard as I can. It’s my last hurrah and I want to make the most of it.”


BALLPARKS

TVA Credit Union Ballpark, Johnson City; Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark, Elizabethton.

TEAMS

A-Town Falcons (Abingdon)

Wahoos (Cherokee)

The Boro (David Crockett)

Team Whited (Dobyns-Bennett)

Bulldogs (Hampton)

Cyclones (Elizabethton)

Demons (Greeneville)

Express (John Battle)

Redwings (Providence)

Home of Daniel Norris (Science Hill)

Patriots (Sullivan East)

Raiders (Sullivan North)

Vikings (Tennessee High)

Pirates (University High 1)

Braves (University High 2)

Volunteers (Volunteer)

SCHEDULE

Monday, June 8

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Wahoos 7, The Boro 6

Express 8, Wahoos 1

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Patriots 6, Express 6, tie

Braves 8, Redwings 5

Tuesday, June 9

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Braves vs. Patriots, 5 p.m.

Cyclones vs. Pirates, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

The Boro vs. Vikings, 5 p.m.

Demons vs. Raiders, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 10

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Redwings vs. Raiders, 5 p.m.

A-Town Falcons vs. Vikings, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Team Whited vs. Bulldogs, 5 p.m.

Home of Daniel Norris vs. Volunteers, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, June 15

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Cyclones vs. Team Whited, 5 p.m.

Demons vs. Bulldogs, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Braves vs. Raiders, 5 p.m.

Patriots vs. Wahoos, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 16

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Redwings vs. Volunteers, 5 p.m.

A-Town Falcons vs. Team Whited, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Home of Daniel Norris vs. Cyclones, 5 p.m.

Express vs. Vikings, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 17

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Demons vs. Volunteers, 5 p.m.

Home of Daniel Norris vs. Bulldogs, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

A-Town Falcons vs. Pirates, 5 p.m.

The Boro vs. Pirates, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, June 22

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Wahoos vs. Pirates, 5 p.m.

Raiders vs. Volunteers, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

A-Town Falcons vs. Home of Daniel Norris, 5 p.m.

Vikings vs. Wahoos, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 23

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Express vs. Pirates, 5 p.m.

Raiders vs. Patriots, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Bulldogs vs. Redwings, 5 p.m.

Braves vs. Volunteers, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 24

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Patriots vs. Vikings, 5 p.m.

Braves vs. Bulldogs, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Demons vs. Cyclones, 5 p.m.

The Boro vs. Team Whited, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, June 29

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Team Whited vs. Wahoos, 5 p.m.

Redwings vs. Cyclones, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Raiders vs. Bulldogs, 5 p.m.

Demons vs. A-Town Falcons, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 30

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

The Boro vs. Home of Daniel Norris, 5 p.m.

The Boro vs. Demons, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Express vs. Team Whited, 5 p.m.

Redwings vs. A-Town Falcons, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 1

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Cyclones vs. Braves, 5 p.m.

Home of Daniel Norris vs. Express, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Volunteers vs. Patriots, 5 p.m.

Pirates vs. Vikings, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, July 6

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Raiders vs. Cyclones, 5 p.m.

Team Whited vs. Vikings, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Volunteers vs. Bulldogs, 5 p.m.

Home of Daniel Norris vs. Wahoos, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 7

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Vikings vs. Home of Daniel Norris, 5 p.m.

Bulldogs vs. Patriots, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

A-Town Falcons vs. Braves, 5 p.m.

Pirates vs. Team Whited, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 8

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Demons vs. Express, 5 p.m.

Patriots vs. Pirates, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Redwings vs. The Boro, 5 p.m.

Volunteers vs. Cyclones, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, July 13

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Wahoos vs. Redwings, 5 p.m.

Braves vs. Express, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Vikings vs. Demons, 5 p.m.

Wahoos vs. Demons, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 14

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Pirates vs. Home of Daniel Norris, 5 p.m.

Volunteers vs. A-Town Falcons, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Raiders vs. The Boro, 5 p.m.

Bulldogs vs. Cyclones, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 15

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Raiders vs. A-Town Falcons, 5 p.m.

Braves vs. The Boro, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Patriots vs. Team Whited, 5 p.m.

Express vs. Redwings, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, July 20

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Cyclones vs. A-Town Falcons, 5 p.m.

Volunteers vs. The Boro, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Wahoos vs. Braves, 5 p.m.

Patriots vs. Home of Daniel Norris, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 21

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Bulldogs vs. The Boro, 5 p.m.

Team Whited vs. Demons, 7 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Pirates vs. Demons, 5 p.m.

Cyclones vs. Patriots, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 22

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Team Whited vs. Home of Daniel Norris, 5 p.m.

Vikings vs. Redwings, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Bulldogs vs. A-Town Falcons, 5 p.m.

Express vs. Raiders, 7:30 p.m.

Monday, July 27

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Vikings vs. Braves, 5 p.m.

Wahoos vs. Raiders, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Wahoos vs. Volunteers, 5 p.m.

Home of Daniel Norris vs. Demons, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 28

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Bulldogs vs. Express, 5 p.m.

Pirates vs. Redwings, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Vikings vs. Raiders, 5 p.m.

Cyclones vs. The Boro, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 29

At TVA Credit Union Ballpark

Team Whited vs. Redwings, 5 p.m.

A-Town Falcons vs. Patriots, 7:30 p.m.

At Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark

Volunteers vs. Express, 5 p.m.

Pirates vs. Braves, 7:30 p.m.