State College minor league baseball team launches campaign

PHOTO PROVIDED State College Spikes General Manager Scott Walker addresses the media during Thursday’s #SaveOurSpikes news conference, which was held at the Centre County Visitors Center.

UNIVERSITY PARK — The State College Spikes aren’t waiting for the bottom of the ninth.

On Thursday morning inside the Centre County Visitors Center, Spikes general manager Scott Walker was joined by a host of community leaders, legislators, Spikes employees, state officials, federal officials, fans and a plethora of media as the Spikes launched the #SaveOurSpikes campaign. The campaign was designed to combat a Major League Baseball proposal that would eliminate 42 minor league baseball teams. The Spikes are the short-season Single-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. The proposal would eliminate two other Pennsylvania teams — the Williamsport Crosscutters (another Single-A New York Penn League team) and the Erie SeaWolves, a member of the Class AA Eastern League. Another nearby minor league team — the Altoona Curve — is not on the list.

Make no mistake about it: Thursday was all about the Spikes. Walker wore a white sports coat emblazoned with “SOS” (SaveOurSpikes), numerous Spikes logos and a “JV” patch honoring the late Josiah Viera, the Spikes’ bench coach who passed away in December of 2018.

“Since November … when our club appeared on a list of 42 minor league baseball teams that would potentially leave their baseball affiliation under a proposal by Major League Baseball countless fans have asked us how they can help us keep the Spikes here in State College,” said Walker. “It greatly energizes me and it greatly energizes everyone in the Spikes organization to know we can come together and we can safeguard that investment we have all made.”

Walker ran the news conference like a polished talk show host, introducing each speaker. Among those who spoke were: Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman; Pennsylvania Community and Economic Development Executive Deputy Secretary Neil Weaver; Ann Kaufman, District Director for Congressman Fred Keller of the 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania; Cindy Kunes, field representative for Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson, 15th Congressional District of Pennsylvania; Centre County Board of Commissioners Chair Michael Pipe; CBICC President and CEO Vern Squier; Happy Valley Adventure Bureau President and CEO Fritz Smith; Gary Hoover, Executive Director of the Bellefonte Intervalley Chamber of Commerce and Dave Boehner, the grandfather of Viera.

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS A large crowd of local dignitaries, Spikes’ employees, area legislators, politicians and media gathered at the Centre County Visitors Center on Thursday for the #SaveOurSpikes news conference.

The Spikes, who will celebrate their 15th season beginning in June, are asking Centre County and the surrounding communities for support as they fight to have a 16th season at Penn State’s Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Squier said fans have three actions they can take immediately: “Buy tickets, buy tickets and buy tickets.”

“Pack the ballpark this summer for the 15th season of Spikes baseball,” Walker said. “We need to show Major League Baseball and the rest of the baseball world that this community supports an affiliated Minor League Baseball team.”

Walker urged fans to visit a new website — www.saveourspikes.com — to find out how they can help to ensure that there will be baseball in Centre County after the 2020 season.

In addition the launch of the #SaveOurSpikes campaign, there was some news to come out of the press conference.

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS A #SaveOurSpikes flag was on display at Thursday’s news conference.

To make games even more family-friendly and encourage turnout, Walker announced that this season, games on Monday through Saturday will move back 30 minutes. First pitch will now take place at at 6:35 p.m, while Sunday games will start at 4:05 p.m. Additionally, fireworks nights will take place on Fridays and Saturdays. Walker also announced a rollback in outfield and bleacher seat pricing. All season long, he said, outfield bleacher seats will be just $6 — the price of those seats during the club’s inaugural season, 2006.

At the conclusion of the news conference, Walker showed off promotional materials. There were car magnets, lapel pins, stickers and window signs. He also tossed squishy baseballs into the crowd.

Fans can pick up those materials at the following locations: Centre County Visitors Center, 800 E. Park Ave.; Downtown State College Improvement District, 127 S. Fraser St.; CBICC, 131 S. Fraser St.; Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce Office, 320 W. High St.; and Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

For more information, visit www.saveourspikes.com. To purchase tickets for the upcoming season, visit www.statecollegespikes.com.

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS A table filled with car magnets, coasters, pins, stickers, key chains and bracelets were free to those who attended the #SaveOurSpikes news conference on Thursday at the Centre County Visitors Center. The items are also available at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

CHRIS MORELLI/THE EXPRESS A CATA bus will feature #SaveOurSpikes wrap. The bus will be hitting the streets in Centre County this spring as a promotion for the 2020 baseball season, which begins in June.