By Dave Ongie, News Editor
Charged with rebranding Johnson City’s Appalachian League baseball team for the first time since 1975, the folks at Boyd Sports rose to the occasion.
Johnson City general manager Zac Clark and the leadership of Boyd Sports were on hand inside the Carnegie Hotel last Tuesday afternoon to announce Johnson City’s franchise will be known as the Doughboys starting this summer as the Appalachian League transitions to a collegiate wood bat league.
Clark said he felt it was important to honor the military with the new name, and his inspiration sat just beyond the centerfield fence of TVA Credit Union Ballpark, Johnson City’s home field.
“Between 1910 and 1938, the baseball club was the Johnson City Soldiers,” Clark said. “Initially, we went right back to the Johnson City Soldiers. In doing research into our community, we realized we had something really special right behind our stadium.”
Clark was speaking, of course, of the statue in Memorial Park called “The Spirit of the American Doughboy.” The statue was dedicated in 1935 and was designed to honor the veterans and those who died in World War I. Johnson City is the only city in the state of Tennessee that has a Doughboy statue, and while over 150 of these statues once existed in the United States, now it is estimated that there are less than 30 nationwide.
“This is an opportunity for us to show some pride, patriotism and honor our military,” Clark said.
Johnson City’s franchise had been known as the Cardinals since 1975 thanks to an affiliation with the Major League Baseball franchise located in St. Louis. However, a recent shakeup of MLB’s player development pipeline left the Appalachian League without Major League affiliates.
The new format for the Appalachian League will provide the top collegiate freshmen and sophomores in the country with a place to play through a partnership between MLB and USA Baseball. The top 320 freshmen and sophomores in the country are expected to fill the rosters in the Appalachian League in time for the 2021 season, which will start for Johnson City on June 3.