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Bluefield Blue Jays 36

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Posted 2017 June 4

Bristol, on the Tennessee/Virginia border, is quite famous for a town of its size. There's even a GEICO commercial set in it. The reason for its fame is, of course, the fact that it sits on the Tennessee/Virginia border, and there's even a street in downtown where the westbound lane is in Virginia while the eastbound lane is in Tennessee. But Bristol is far from the only such city (or, more accurately, pair of cities, since city charters are state-granted and thus Bristol TN and Bristol VA are technically separate cities). Other examples include Texarkana TX/AR, College Corner OH/IN, and Lloydminster SK/AB. A lot of these towns find interesting ways to highlight the boundary. In Texarkana it is State Line Avenue that straddles the border, and the post office is in the middle of a traffic circle along State Line Avenue (yes, the post office is half in Texas and half in Arkansas). In College Corner, there's an elementary school (which serves students in both states) whose gym is split down the middle.

Oh, and Bluefield is another example, which is why I'm talking about this. Bluefield is split between Virginia and West Virginia, although unlike the examples above it's not a case of equal (or near-equal) partners. Bluefield WV is twice the size of Bluefield VA; in fact, Bluefield VA isn't actually an incorporated city, but an unincorporated town. Also, there's no street running down the border. Indeed, for the most part it looks like the border is completely ignored. Numerous streets cross the border and from what I can see in Google Street View, a lot of them make no mention of the state line.

But there is a park which runs over the state line. It's a city park, run by the City of Bluefield (WV). And Bowen Field, where the Bluefield Blue Jays play, is in this park. The ballfield is entirely in Virginia. In a West Virginia city park. The team's address is in West Virginia, but their phone number has a Virginia area code. Are you confused? Don't be. At least the local elementary school is in a single state.

I am disappointed to report that they did not align the ballpark so that a home run could truthfully be described as "He hit that one into the next state!" I mean, come on, people. How do you put a ballpark that close to a state line and not do that? But they didn't. They failed to do it in two ways. First, the ballfield is aligned wrong: the state line in this area runs from northwest to southeast, so for a fair ball to go into West Virginia the batter would need to be facing approximately northeast; instead, the batter is facing due south. Second, it's about 900 feet from home plate to the state line, so any ball is extremely unlikely to get that far. And lest you think that there's something about the terrain made it impossible to put the field closer, there's not. Bluefield is in the mountains, but that park is quite flat. Furthermore, the state line runs through the parking lot for the ballpark. Looking at the street view on Google Maps, I can tell that it would have been nothing to put the ballpark right up against the state line instead.

Bluefield has hosted baseball since 1937, and Bowen Field has been the home for that team since 1946. In keeping with Appalachian League tradition, for most of that time the team has simply used the same name as its parent team. For over fifty years that meant the team was the Bluefield Orioles, which (let's be honest) isn't a great name. But in 2010 there was a shuffling of affiliations, and as a result the Bluefield Orioles became the Bluefield Blue Jays. I approve of this. Yes, it's silly. That's why I like it. If every minor league team that used its parent team's name resulted in a name this silly, I'd have much less of a problem with teams doing that. There's nothing wrong with a little bit of silliness from time to time

Which is why I want them to move the stadium. A team called the Bluefield Blue Jays is silly, but not quite silly enough. But a team called the Bluefield Blue Jays whose stadium is located such that you can literally hit a home run into the next state? Yeah, that'll do. Or at least align it so a foul ball might cross the state line; "That ball was so foul it wound up in the wrong state!" would be amusing, too.

Or, hell, place the stadium so that the line bisects the playing field, with home plate, the pitcher's mound, and second base partly in each state while first base is in one state and third in the other. Just, you know, do something. Have some fun with this.

Or just act like the rest of the city and pretend the state line doesn't even exist. I mean that's worked so well so far, right? That's why everyone's heard of Bluefield and nobody knows about Texarkana or Bristol, right? Oh, wait. That's completely backwards. Yeah. You guys in Bluefield might want to think about that.

Final Score: 36 points.
Penalties: Alliteration (egregious), 11 pts; Offspring, 12 pts; Equipment, 13 pts.
Bonuses: None.


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