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Charlottesville lands new Valley Baseball League team

Beginning this summer, Charlottesville High School will play home to a second baseball team. And with that new team will come new facilities.

During a work session Thursday, the city School Board reached consensus to move forward with plans for Charlottesville Community Baseball Inc. to build over the next five years approximately eight new structures around the perimeter of the high school’s Willie T. Barnett Baseball Field.

“It’s a gift, basically,” said Larry Mangino, Charlottesville High’s athletic director. “They are able to use our field for two months out of the year, and in return we are getting a lot back.”

During the summer months, when the diamond is not in use by the high school, it will be the home turf of the Charlottesville Tom Sox, the newest edition to the Valley Baseball League — a summer league for elite college ballplayers.

The project — which will be funded entirely by Charlottesville Community Baseball — will include a pavilion, restrooms, a renovated concession stand and storage area, a VIP seating area that can double as an outdoor classroom, a press box and an approximately 2,500-square-foot indoor practice facility.

The organization has leased the field from Charlottesville City Schools from the end of the high school’s 2015 baseball season until August 2024, and plans to build the project out in phases. The first phase will begin this year with the indoor practice facility and a VIP seating area.

Greg Allen, Charlottesville Community Baseball’s president, said that they want to build the VIP seating area early in the process in order to attract major employers to host picnics during games and to sponsor games.

According to the plans completed by the Charlottesville-based Maple Ridge Group, the bulk of the development will occur along the first-base line. City schools staff who maintain the baseball field will continue to do so, school officials said.

Board member Colette Blount questioned why the plans don’t include locker rooms for the visiting team. Allen said it would be unusual for a Valley League team to offer that, but that the plans are subject to change.

For example, Allen said, food trucks are taking the place of concession stands in many instances. If that were to be the case locally, the concession stand might not need to be built, and perhaps a visitors locker room could be built.

“We would expect to come back annually and tell you what we think,” Allen said, noting that the plan put forward is a vision that might need to be adjusted over time.

Allen said the team’s Board of Directors is still debating admission costs.

“We’re not going to charge admission, I’m sure, for kids, and if we do charge for adults it will be a nominal number,” Allen said.

The Tom Sox are one of 12 teams in the Valley Baseball League, which last year saw 27 alumni playing in the major leagues. Players — who live with host families in the community — don’t get paid, and to be eligible, the athletes must have played at least one year of college baseball and must have years of athletic eligibility left.

In addition to the facilities, Mangino said that the club will offer community value.

“They have offered to do clinics for our kids in Charlottesville, both our players at the high school and [younger children],” Mangino said.

“I think this is going to be a real asset, not only to our community, but also because the Valley Baseball League will be in Charlottesville,” School Board member Jennifer McKeever said.

Allen said the project will benefit both the high school and Charlottesville area at-large.

“We expect this to be a 50-year asset, not just in terms of the tangible thing for the community, but also building physical assets that Charlottesville High School can use,” Allen said.

The Tom Sox’ home opener is against Staunton at 7:30 p.m. June 6.