Black Bears Finish First Draft League Season in Second
After nearly two years without baseball at Monongalia County Ballpark, the West Virginia Black Bears have now completed a very successful inaugural season in the all-new MLB Draft League, finishing in second place with a 30-19-6 record and having seven players drafted during July’s MLB Draft.
Although health and safety protocols forced the cancellation of six of the team’s final seven scheduled games in 2021, the challenges off the field do not compare to the rewards of having the Black Bears back this summer and welcoming the great baseball fans of North Central West Virginia back to The Mon.
Led by Morgantown native and hometown hero, manager Jedd Gyorko, the Black Bears finished the 2021 season in second place in the league. With the late season cancellations, the club fell just behind in the standings to the Trenton Thunder, the 2021 MLB Draft League Champions.
“It is unfortunate this is how our season is ending, but we are happy to prioritize the health and safety of the players and staff and it certainly won’t take away from the many team and individual successes the Black Bears had on the field,” said General Manager Matthew Drayer.
The young West Virginia team thrived under Gyorko’s leadership.
The Black Bears recorded 16 home wins with only four home series losses all season. Leading up to the MLB Draft, the Black Bears won 12 of 15 contests at The Mon and all six series from May 31 until July 11.
In its first year as a founding member of the MLB Draft League — a showcase league for players eligible for the draft — seven players were selected from West Virginia in the 2021 MLB Draft.
Left-handed pitcher Mitchell Bratt from Newmarket, Ontario, was taken in the 5th round by the Texas Rangers (134th overall pick) and was the Black Bears’ highest draft pick (the league’s second highest). Additional draftees include pitcher Michael Hobbs (10th round, 312th pick to Los Angeles Dodgers); pitcher Kobe Robinson (13th round by the San Diego Padres); catcher Tucker Mitchell (14th round by the Texas Rangers); outfielder Garrett Spain (15th round by the Toronto Blue Jays); pitcher Madison Jeffrey (15th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers); and pitcher Carlos Lomeli (17th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates).
In addition to the seven players drafted, six more signed to major league and independent league teams as free agents.
“It was a good season – we got to see some great prospects and some exciting baseball,” said Drayer. “It was fun seeing some of the young guys like [Mitchell] Bratt and [Michael] Hobbs at the very start of their careers, knowing they will go on to do big things.”
West Virginia’s season at home ended abruptly last weekend due to league health and safety concerns prior to the final series against the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Attempting to finish the season on the road, the league amended the schedule to eliminate the two-game series at the Williamsport Crosscutters and add a four-game series against the Scrappers at Eastwood Field. The Black Bears lost the first game of the series, 7-5, before the remaining three games were cancelled to allow for additional testing and contract tracing of both teams.
“It was definitely an unconventional year as we navigated playing in a new league and playing through a pandemic,” Drayer said. “We made adjustments as best we could in what was an unpredictable season. At the end of the day, we’re just happy to be back to playing baseball, and we look forward to welcoming everyone back to The Mon in 2022.”