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With new mascot on its way, Power has identity crisis

By Jack Bogaczyk

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Power wants to plug into a new program. So, the South Atlantic League baseball club will unveil a new mascot tonight.

So long to Charlie, Hatchet, Windy, Firebug and Waterboy - or whatever their names were. We'll hardly miss ye - although Charlie's historic seamhead at least had you thinking of baseball and past glory of Class AAA farm clubs here.

Andy Milovich, the Power vice president and general manager, said the new mascot - to be introduced in the middle of the second inning of tonight's game against Rome - is the centerpiece of a West Virginia Power Street Team, sponsored by CAMC.

The Power intends to use the new mascot and Street Team in a club initiative to tackle community issues, hoping to influence positive change.

The Power's first target is childhood obesity, Milovich said.

As for the mascot, Milovich hinted Monday that the new furry friend is "more animal than anything, but not like a black bear or dog. It's more on the lines of a Phillie Phanatic, a Muppet-type character."

Milovich made it clear the club will have only one mascot, after the team found something of an identity crisis in sending the various "retiring" mascots out into the community.

"It seemed we could never fully establish an identity," Milovich said. "And staffing five of them was very challenging, and replacing all five would have been very costly."

Well, no matter who or what the new mascot is, I'll probably always think of the Toastman and Wheeler Bob as the real team mascots at Power Park.

*  *  *

MASCOTS ASIDE, what local baseball aficionados are really waiting for is when the Pittsburgh Pirates - finishing their second year as the West Virginia parent club, with a 2011-14 extension done - will get someone to PNC Park who has played in Charleston's 6-year-old East End ballpark.

A review of the Power's four seasons (2005-08) as the Milwaukee Brewers' low Class A farm revealed that West Virginia products are plentiful in The Show these days. Even before rosters can expand on Wednesday, the Brewers' 25-man list includes seven former Power players.

Those are outfielders Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain, pitchers Yovani Gallardo, Zach Braddock and Mike McClendon, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and shortstop Alcides Escobar (not to mention 1990 Charleston Wheelers infielder-turned-future Hall of Fame closer, Trevor Hoffman).

However, that seven is only half the number of the former Power players from that four-year stretch who have played at least one game in the Majors (not all with Milwaukee, of course).

The others are Matt LaPorta, Mat Gamel, Carlos Corporan, Michael Brantley, Joe Thatcher, Angel Salome and Hernan Iribarren.

That's very impressive. And seven of the 14 were part of the 2005 Power.

So, who's the ex-Power Park'er closest to the bigs for the Bucs?

How about 2009 Power All-Star lefty Rudy Owens, who is 11-6 with a 2.56 ERA and 123 strikeouts (and only 23 walks) at Class AA Altoona, or Double A shortstop Chase D'Arnaud, who played the first half of last season in Charleston before moving up. He's struggled a bit at Altoona, hitting .243.

Another possibility is catcher Tony Sanchez, who might return to finish the season at high Class A Bradenton. Sanchez, the Pirates' 2009 first-round pick who played for the Power part of last season, has been out since June 22. He was hit in the left jaw by a pitch, had surgery, and then spent several weeks with his jaw wired shut.

*  *  *

BARRING A great final homestand, the 2010 edition will be the first Power team to finish both halves of an SAL season with a losing record. The club took the West Virginia Power name in 2005, one year after a franchise ownership change.

The last Charleston team to play sub-.500 ball in both halves was the 2003 Alley Cats, affiliated with Toronto. That club went 28-36 in the first half and then 30-40 in the second half.

Since that season, Charleston's team has had nine winning halves (out of 14), with another at even .500.

*  *  *

FINALLY, THE last games for the Bluefield Orioles will be played tonight in an Appalachian League doubleheader at Princeton. Bluefield has played in the Appy League from 1946-55 and 1957-2010.

Ending an affiliation that dates to 1958 - the 53-year arrangement is the longest in the farm system relationship in the game - Baltimore has decided to trim its rookie teams to Sarasota in the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen (Md.) in the New York-Penn League, leaving Bluefield without a Player Development Contract.

A ballclub and town where Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray, Boog Powell and other future Baltimore stars began their pro careers hopes to land another deal for 2011, but there are no guarantees.

Bowen Field, which dates to 1939, may be without a team in the future.

Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at jackb@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949.


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