City gears up for college league

Residents of New Albany have a new opportunity to enjoy America’s past time, as the addition of the Cotton States Baseball League (CSBL) was announced Tuesday afternoon.

Four area teams are currently being put together with all of the games being played at Legion Field at the New Albany Sportsplex. League officials talked to the community in a press conference, detailing what the wooden bat collegiate league will bring to the area.

Originating in 1902, the CSBL, comprised of teams from Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, gave collegiate players an opportunity to play during the summer, while staying close to home. The league closed in 1952, and was reorganized recently, but for teams in south Mississippi. Now the CSBL has plans for expansion, and feel that New Albany is the best location.

“Coming to New Albany gives us the dynamic where we can have teams in North and South Mississippi with all of the athletes that can impact each other,” CSBL North Commissioner Chris Snopek said. “I think this will be exciting for the guys. They play from Southern Miss all the way up to Itawamba, and they’ll be competing against one another and realizing they can sharpen each other’s skills while staying in state.”

Currently, several summer leagues similar to the CSBL are in operation, but league officials want Mississippi players to have the opportunity to stay in state to play summer ball.

“With the new NCAA rules about academic progress, a lot of college players are attending summer school, staying close to home to get their academics in order during the summer months,” CSBL North Director Clark Richey said. “New Albany is perfectly positioned as a central hub that can reach players that are attending summer school at Ole Miss, University of Memphis, Mississippi State. Those players, if they’re in summer school, they really don’t have the opportunity to play summer collegiate ball, but they will now.”

The community had their first look at the four teams, the Golden Triangle Jets (Columbus/Starkville), Tupelo Thunder, North Delta Dealers (Oxford/Batesville) and New Albany’s own Tallahatchie Rascals.

The Rascals will have a lot of home flavor, as they will be coached by East Union’s Chris Basil.

“It’s a great honor, and I think it says a lot about our baseball program,” Basil said on being selected as a coach. “I owe that to our kids and the accomplishments they’ve made. I think it’s going to be awesome for this town. New Albany High School is going to get the biggest benefit out of this whole situation, because they’ll have probably the prettiest high school baseball field in the state. I’ve always wanted to coach college players, and now I have this opportunity, and I really appreciate it.”

The league will play all of their games at Legion Field, which is currently under renovation to meet the demands of hosting. A schedule is already set for the CSBL, with games starting on June 1 and going through July 28. New Albany will also host the CSBL Al-Star game on July 18, which will bring together the best players from both the North and South divisions.

Coaches are currently in the process of forming their respective teams, and Basil’s first signee is none other than East Union’s own M.J. McWhorter. Basil is also in talks with several other players and says the process is going well.

“I’ve lost out on my number one guy that signed with me, that’s Cody Trotter. Batting .431 at the University of Alabama, last week he threw his elbow out, so he’s not going to be able to play this year.,” Basil said. “All in all, I’ve had a lot of success. I just got off the phone with two kids from Memphis on the way up here that said they are going to play.”

Coaches have until May 15th to complete their rosters, and the CSBL hopes to have preliminary line-ups ready on May 1st.

A website will also be available for fans to follow the league. Statistics, schedules and player biographies will be featured, and the league feels this will be beneficial for the kids, as they will receive the exposure they need to make it to the next level.

Ticket prices for the games range from $4 for general admission, $3 for senior citizens and children, along with group packages and season ticket packages.

For more information on the CSBL, check out the league’s website at www.cottonstatesleague.com.

About Chris Elkins

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