Since the 1930’s batters have been swinging away in Southern West Virginia. For 53 season the Baltimore Orioles minor league team called Bluefield home before the Toronto Blue Jays took over in 2011. But Bluefield is not alone, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays moved into Princeton in 1997.  

Rocky Malamisura, General Manager for the Bluefield Blue Jays, said two minor league teams in the same area is rare. 

“Just having one is a huge deal,” Malamisura said. “But having two within the vicinity that we have is almost unheard of in the United States. The draw that both teams get and have is immense.”  

Former General Manager of the Princeton Rays Jim Holland said at least 100 players from both clubs have gone on to play in the major leagues.  

“2/3 of our starting outfield in 1999 was center fielder Josh Hamiliton, who went on to be an American League batting champion, MVP of the league, played in a couple World Series,” Holland said. “And one of his corner outfielders besides him was Carl Crawford, who played with Tampa Bay and then finished his career on the heels of a 7 years one hundred $42 million contract with Boston, then went over to Los Angeles for the Dodgers for a little bit.” 

“Two of the most well famous I guess would be Kevin Pillar and Vlad Guerrero Jr,” Malamisura said.  

Since 1992, the two teams meet every season for 11 head to head games called the Mercer Cup. This season the Princeton Rays are the defending champions, but Bluefield leads in the series record. 

Holland said all the players and coaches know how big this series is. 

“You better believe that these coaches and players that have played there the year before tell these players this is important. This is like the Army Navy game, the Army Navy game you don’t even have to go to a bowl game just beat Navy or Army, which ever the case may be. And that is kind of how the Mercer Cup is,” Holland said.  

Tommy Thomason works for the Princeton Rays and has also been a fan for many years. He said the Mercer Cup is his favorite part of the season.  

“Oh, it’s a fun series. It’s very enjoyable. It’s like trying to beat your family across the county and having the bragging rights,” Thomason said.  

Win or lose, both teams agree they play for the fans and the appreciate their support on and off the diamond. 

The Princeton Rays kick off their season on June 18th on the road at Danville. And the Bluefield Blue Jays first game is also the 18th on the road at Elizabethton.