HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. – With its home office located in the quickly growing town in southwest Wake County, the Coastal Plain League (CPL), a summer developmental baseball league for college players, never had a nearby franchise and team to give it a local face.
That will change when the 2015 season begins on May 26, as the newly minted Holly Springs Salamanders will take to the field.
The new franchise will present a true centered and focal point for the league, which in the past considered its closest league members in Wilson, the Tobs, and in Fayetteville, where the SwampDogs call home, its locally-featured clubs.
“The Holly Springs franchise is something that was a project dating back a few years,” CPL commissioner Justin Sellers said.
“Having the league office in Holly Springs, we wanted to bring a franchise to our backyard, so to speak, similar to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) with Wake Forest nearby. The Holly Springs Salamanders gives us that local feel in the community that will help from a branding standpoint, but also from an existing members’ standpoint, adding a geographic staple for our footprint. Being able to connect and be what we call a bridge-gapper, travel will be more efficient for our teams when going to play each other.”
The league consists of current college players working on their game and honing their skills the pro way, with wood bats.
Many have aspirations of being drafted by a Major League Baseball (MLB) club, so getting that experience and to continue playing after the end of the collegiate season is important to aid in their development.
Over 1200 graduates of the league have been drafted into the pros.
Member clubs create and provide a professional, minor league-like atmosphere for all of its players, coaches, umpires, and fans.
However, it is an amateur league – not a minor pro league.
Players are not compensated monetarily in any form or fashion by the league or its teams, and they are competing with eligibility remaining with their respective college teams.
“If they have dreams of goin’ pro, then it’s getting them prepared for what they’re gonna’ see when they go pro,” Sellers added.
“To get acclimated to the wood bat, get further coaching and to assess them. That type of practice helps them be able to swing a wood bat and play against further competition at a high level and get used to the life of what pro baseball is gonna’ be like. If that’s the route you want to go, then the Coastal Plain League is a good starting point for you.”
Travel, particularly in the minors, where most drafted prospects eventually start, is something CPL players get a lot of exposure to, and the Salamanders roster will experience that right away, beginning their inaugural season on the road.
Before hometown fans will crowd the Salamanders’ field located within the Town’s newly constructed North Main Athletic Complex, they will have to listen to the league’s webcast on how well their team does in its first two games ever played in the CPL.
They’ll play two games back-to-back in Asheboro, against the Copperheads, and in Hampton, Va., home of the Peninsula Pilots, Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, before coming home to host their home opener against the Edenton Steamers on Thurs. May 28.
“As we see in all of our communities, you have something that you can call your own,” Sellers said.
“The citizens of Holly Springs will be able to say, ‘this is our team’, and get behind the Salamanders.”
It seems that getting behind the Salamanders hasn’t been a problem.
As of Thursday, the excitement to rally around the team has resulted in a sell out for the home opener.
All 1700 tickets are gone – give or take as final confirmation on the park’s full attendance capacity is still being finalized.
Not to worry though, there are 27 more games that will be played at the new park through Aug. 3, with season ticket and promotional ticket packages still available.
It seems that with the addition of its newest team, the CPL has already recorded its first home run of the season without a pitch even being thrown.