NEW ALBANY - The coronavirus has not slowed down baseball for the Cotton States Baseball League that is played in New Albany. In fact, the league has seen exponential growth according to commissioner Sam Creekmore.
"This year we have a record number of college teams with 10!" Creekmore said. "This is our 12th season and the most we have ever in the past was seven college teams.
"We have 180 players participating in the league from eight different states representing over 40 colleges and universities. The player traveling the most significant distance is Finn Snyder coming from Montana. We had well over 200 players apply to play in the league."
Cotton States will stack all their playing dates over an extended weekend in order to help the players with travel and lodging.
"We are consolidating our playing days by grouping them on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday," Creekmore said. "This allows players to travel and arrive on Friday and stay the weekend and get all their games. In the past, we have had games in the middle of the week, making it difficult for traveling players.
"This season, on Friday, we will play three games (6 different teams) and on Monday, we will play two games (4 different teams). On Saturday and Sunday, we will perform a full complement of games for the league with all five games being played each day."
The Cotton States have played an important role for not only their players and coaches that are involved, but also the local community and beyond have reaped benefits.
"This is the 12th season for the Cotton State in New Albany," Creekmore said. "We have built a quality product that has produced seven players drafted by the MLB. Recently the CSBL has been receiving recognition from many prominent college baseball publications https://d1baseball.com/news/summer-ball-watch-tracking-the-schedule-changes/ as one of the more established leagues in the country. It is vital for our community, our league, and for these players that will play this summer.
"The CSBL attracts over 10,000 fans each season and with this season being our most significant, we expect even more people. With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting our economy, having these baseball guests visit our town this summer will help our recovery."
Creekmore says that next month, the league plans to have some special recognition days for a couple of Mississippi's most prominent baseball figures.
"Doug Shanks and Ron Polk will be honored for their contributions to baseball in Mississippi in July," he said. "There will be much more information on this event coming soon."
One of the most important components of the Cotton States league is the fact that all play is on a centrally-located site and not spread out across town or multiple municipalities.
"The CSBL is a single site collegiate baseball league," according to Creekmore. "Unlike most collegiate summer leagues, the CSBL plays all its games at one location, BNA Park (Legion Field Complex). The college league uses the Legion Field, the Pony Field, and the Legion Field Complex.
"With the State of Mississippi Covid-19 guidelines and our additional guidelines, we have all the games in one location to make it easier to implement the guidelines. Also, the fans and players become familiar and comfortable in the space at the park. The Legion Field Complex has 107,250 SF of audience space (area outside the fields for fans to use). With this much space, there is plenty of room for Social Distancing while watching the game."
Another feature of the Cotton States Baseball League is the high school and junior high leagues and there is anticipation that those will also see huge interest and participation in 2020.
"The high school and junior high leagues typically start in July and run to the first weekend in August," Creekmore said. "However, because high school players are not allowed to play games with their school team, we plan to expand the season by starting earlier in June.
"The exact date has not been determined yet. We are encouraging interested high school players to go ahead and apply NOW. The rosters are filling up quickly and we only have room for 14 teams (high school and junior high)."
Creekmore and all those associated with the league are excited to see what the 2020 season will bring to players, coaches and fans of baseball and are ready to get season number 12 started.
"The Cotton States Baseball League has been part of baseball history starting in 1902 when it was established as a class D league by Major League Baseball," Creekmore said. "The CSBL has been in and out of existence and been located in several cities throughout the South (Baton Rouge LA, Jackson MS, Hattiesburg, New Orleans, Pensacola, Natchez, Pine Bluff AR, Hot Springs AR, Selma AL, Monroe LA, Mobile AL, Texarkana TX to name a few).
"In all the history of the CSBL, the longest consecutive tenure the league thrived is right here in New Albany! For 12 years, the league has provided many players opportunities to better their game and experience life in our community. The CSBL has given young coaches opportunities to better their resumes' and allowed seasoned coaches to scout talent for their programs. The best part the CSBL offers is it gives families another avenue to gather and watch their loved one play the great American past time in OUR GREAT American town of New Albany!"