BLUEFIELD, VA (WVNS) — The Appalachian League use to be affiliated with Minor League Baseball. But this year, it is going to look a bit different.

It is now turning into a collegiate wood bat league for non-draft eligible freshmen and sophomores, ranging from Division I to NAIA. Rocky Malimasura, Bluefield Ridge Runners’ General Manager, is looking forward to the season.

“That doesn’t mean they are no good. It doesn’t mean they have had issues,” Malimasura said. “What that means is that, one they are not old enough to enter the draft or they have signed a little of intent or are presently in college.”

The biggest difference in this “new format” is these players are not making any money. Plus, their teams have to abide with NCAA regulations.

“These are strictly amateur players. They will not be paid in anyway,” Malimasura said. “Whereas, the old Appalachian League was an affiliate with MiLB. Those were professorial players who received a salary and signing bonuses.”

The teams will also play a few less games, rounding out the season with 54 matchups on the diamond. Since Bowen Field is actually in Virginia, the Ridge Runners have to follow their state guidelines — which may change before opening day, come Thursday, June 3, 2021. Regardless, Malimasura is optimistic.

“We’re going to be here. We’re going to have a great time,” Malimasura said. “We’re encouraging new families and new fans of baseball to come out.”

Malimasura and many West Virginia locals were worried baseball in Mercer County would be gone for good. Now, it is home to players hoping to have their names go down in history,

“These kids want to jump out there and make a name for themselves,” Malimasura said.

The Ridge Runners start their season on the road at Kingsport on June 3.