OVBL will expand to 12 teams

The Steele and Cook Insurance Ohio Valley Baseball League continues its expansion project.

Having already landed teams in the Belmont County Cubs and the Powhatan Point Pirates, the summer pastime has announced plans for a team from Toronto this past week.

According to league president Laney Simone Sr., that team will be named the Jefferson County Reds and will call the Red Knight Baseball Complex its home in the Gem City. The Cubs will use the St. Clairsville Jr. Sports Complex for its home contests, while Powhatan will play its home games on the River High School diamond in Hannibal.

That gives the league 12 viable squads, which is one more than last season. They include on the Ohio side of the Ohio River: Barton, Belmont County, Lafferty, defending champion Maynard, Powhatan Point, Shadyside and Toronto. In West Virginia, there are teams in Weirton, West Liberty, Marshall County, the Wheeling Cardinals and Wheeling Yankees. Long-time entrant Neffs and second-year club, Warren Township have dropped out.

“Twelve teams is really nice,” Simone said following a recent league meeting. “But, we will not have two divisions or anything like that. Each team will play each team twice throughout the regular season. That gives each team 22 games.”

I, personally, kind of like the league going to the two division format, with six teams in each division.

Simone’s immediate response was, “I don’t even know how we would break the teams up.”

Well, it’s simple. Since you can’t divide the teams by states (Ohio has 7, West Virginia has 5), throw them all in a hat or a bucket. The first six drawn out are in one division and the remaining half-a-dozen in the other. Give them a certain number and then use the same scheduling system that is currently used.

“I thought last season went very smoothly,” Simone said. “We’ll use the same schedule, but there won’t be any byes this year.”

During a meeting in January, it was announced that the regular season would run up to the start of Jamboree In The Hills. The playoffs would begin the week after. However, after some careful thinking and much deliberating, it was decided to keep the same format as last summer, meaning everything will be wrapped up before the Superbowl of Country Music invades Belmont County.

The possibility of playing doubleheaders was also brought up, but Simone said he would leave that up to the managers involved discretion.

Personally, I know the drive from Toronto (northern Jefferson County) to Hannibal (northern Monroe County) or Lafferty (western Belmont County) can be tedious procedures, but is one team willing to give up its home game just to save a road trip? I know I wouldn’t!

It was also announced that West Liberty was looking into playing its home games at the J.B. Chambers Complex in Elm Grove. The diamond has come a long way in several years and serves as the home field for Wheeling Jesuit University. That would also be good news to all the other teams. W.Va. 88 isn’t the nicest road to travel, to or from.

It’s just over a month that the season begins. I can’t wait to hear those magical words, “Play Ball!”