Savannah Bananas visiting GoMart Ballpark on Friday and Saturday for Spring Training games; Both games sold out
By Matt Young, WV Press Association
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – With less than two weeks to go before the start of the regular season, the Charleston Dirty Birds, on Wednesday, welcomed members of the media to GoMart Ballpark for an all-access meet-and-greet.
“This is an incredibly exciting day for me personally and professionally,” Andy Shea, Dirty Birds owner and CEO, told reporters during the brief press conference to kick off the event. “I’ve had the pleasure of being here and involved for a little over two years now, but I still feel like the new guy.”
Shea noted that the 2023 season will be “extra special” for him and his family, as they recently permanently relocated to the Charleston-area.
“Baseball is here,” Shea added. “It’s an amazing feeling.”
After its affiliation with the Seattle Mariners was discontinued in 2020, Shea purchased the team, then known as the West Virginia Power, in Feb. of 2021. As a member of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, the Charleston Dirty Birds are entering their third year under their current name. The Atlantic League is Major League Baseball’s (MLB) first Professional Partner League, and is celebrating its 25th Anniversary-season in 2023. The league currently consists of 10 teams, including Freedom Division rivals, the Lexington Counter Clocks and the Gastonia Honey Hunters.
The Dirty Birds will begin their 2023 season in Staten Island, New York on Friday, April 28, as they travel to take on the Ferryhawks. The Dirty Birds home opener is Tuesday, May 9, against the Lancaster Barnstormers. Season tickets for the 2023 season are now on sale. Single-game tickets will go on sale on March 3. For more information or to shop the Dirty Birds team store, visit www.dirtybirdsbaseball.com.
This Friday and Saturday, in a spring training session, the Savannah Bananas make their debut in Charleston at GoMart Ballpark as part of the Banana Ball World Tour. The Bananas will be playing the Charleston Dirty Birds in two exhibition games. Both games are sold out.
During the 2022 season, seven Dirty Birds players were signed by MLB teams, including Kevin Herget, who just last week recorded his first major league victory with the Cincinnati Reds.
Once again in 2023, The Dirty Birds lineup includes players who have previously played in the major leagues, as well as many more with aspirations of one day getting there. One player with those aspirations is Dirty Birds utility infielder, Luis Atiles. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Atiles arrived in Charleston by way of Boston, Massachusetts.
“I’ve been playing baseball since I could grab a ball,” Atiles told reporters. “I’m very passionate – I come from a family full of baseball players who have played professionally.”
Atiles’ uncle, Wilfredo Tejada, played for the Montreal Expos between 1986 and 1988.
“Seeing them (family members) play while being raised in the Dominican Republic definitely helped me develop that passion,” Atiles said. “I want to keep that legacy going.”
Much like his Uncle Wilfredo, Atiles began his baseball career as a catcher. However, he soon found himself preferring to be on the field, rather than behind home plate.
“Eventually I learned the craft, and conditioned myself well enough to be a shortstop from high school on,” Atiles noted. “Now, being a shortstop is definitely where I see myself, and I’m learning from all the other great big-leaguers we have on the team.”
Among those “big-leaguers” filling out the Dirty Birds’ 2023 roster are Denis Phipps, formerly of the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox, and Dawell Lugo, formerly of the Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Detroit Tigers.
Atiles said his priority is “bringing a championship to Charleston, W.Va.” Once that goal is achieved, however, Atiles added that, “My ambition and my hunger is definitely to be in the major leagues one day. With the help of Billy Horn, and obviously putting in the work that I have to, I think that’s attainable. Then I can show my little brothers back home that anything is possible.”
Billy Horn is, of course, the manager of the Charleston Dirty Birds. Now in his second year with the team, Horn previously served as manager for Dirty Birds division rival the High Point Rockers.
“We’ve got a really good group of guys, and really great baseball players,” Horn said. “If you look up and down our lineup, we’ve got a lot of power and we’ve got a lot of speed. We’ve got guys who hit a lot of doubles, a lot of home runs, and score a lot of runs.”
“On the pitching side, our starting rotation is pretty much all vamped up to guys that are averaging six innings per start,” Horn added. “Being able to do that and then turning it over to the bullpen – we’ve got some really good, exciting arms back there in the bullpen.”
Horn is perhaps most excited about the camaraderie that he sees developing among his players.
“Seeing these guys gel this well, already, like this is, really, really special to see,” Horn said.
This season also marks the stadium’s first as GoMart BallPark.
GoMart Inc. and the Dirty Birds agreed to a 10-year deal that will change the name of the Dirty Birds’ home venue to GoMart Ballpark.
“GoMart has stepped up to the plate big-time,” said Shea. “It is great to have an iconic West Virginia brand attached to our home ballpark.”
The stadium has been named Appalachian Power Park since its inception in 2005. It was home to the South Atlantic League’s West Virginia Power from 2005 to 2020 and the Atlantic League’s Charleston Dirty Birds for the past two seasons. The stadium has also hosted the South Atlantic League All-Star games in 2009 and 2019, in addition to the annual West Virginia State High School Tournament.
“We are excited for GoMart Ballpark to make its own history as it coincides with the installation of a beautiful synthetic turf field that will showcase Dirty Birds’ games and so much more,” said Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin.
“As a West Virginia-based company, we love supporting other organizations across the state,” said GoMart President Phil Shuman. “We look forward to this partnership with the Charleston Dirty Birds.”
The Dirty Birds have also released their promotional schedule for the 2023 season which is packed with Giveaway Nights, Megablast Fireworks, $1 Beer Nights and so much more.
There are 14 Giveaway Nights slated on the schedule primarily taking place every Friday game. Giveaways include four t-shirts, a youth replica jersey, a Hawaiian shirt, two giveaway hats and a special bobblehead giveaway. Fans will be able to enjoy $1 Beer Nights on every Thursday home game on the schedule with an additional night on Saturday, July 1.
“Fans are always our priority when developing the promotional schedule, and we want them to have a smile on their face when they step through the gates to the time they walk out,” said Manager of Entertainment, Eden Douglas. “The entire front office has worked hard to make these promotions happen, and we want fans to enjoy the time they spend with their hometown team.”
The promotional schedule will also include five Charlie’s throwback nights, Baseball Bingo, African American Heritage Night, Pride Night, and so much more.
Tuesday- ½ Price Beer and Buy One Get One Hot Dogs and Baseball Bingo presented by AARP
Wednesday- Winning Scratch Off Wednesday’s
Thursday- $1 Beer
Friday- Giveaways and Furry Friend Friday
Saturday- Megablast Fireworks
Sunday- Little League Sundays presented by United Rentals
Season tickets for the 2023 season are now on sale. Single-game tickets will go on sale on March 3. For more information or to shop the Dirty Birds team store, visit www.dirtybirdsbaseball.com.
The Charleston Dirty Birds are a member of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Celebrating its 25th Anniversary season in 2023, the Atlantic League is Major League Baseball’s first Professional Partner League, a player gateway to the major leagues, and a leader in baseball innovation. ALPB has sent over 1,200 players to MLB organizations while drawing more than 45 million fans to its family-friendly ballparks throughout its 25-year history. Please visit www.AtlanticLeague.com