Discussions about the fate of the Martinsville Mustangs in the Coastal Plain League beyond this season are “ongoing,” according to Martinsville City and team officials.

Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki told the Bulletin in an email that the city has had ongoing discussion with the CPL throughout the season about what will occur with the team beyond 2019, given that the team’s contract with the league ends this year.

“The CPL staff wanted to get to the end of the season to see how the team financials look before deciding where we go for 2020,” Towarnicki said in an email. “Now that the season has ended, we anticipate discussions occurring within a matter of days. After that, we’ll know what 2020, and beyond, looks like.”

The final game of the CPL championship will be played on Saturday night, and Towarnicki said preparations begin for the 2020 season “almost immediately” after the 2019 season ends.

“We’re expecting to bring this to a conclusion shortly,” he said.

Multiple calls and emails to CPL officials were unreturned as of Friday afternoon.

The Mustangs are owned by the city of Martinsville, and the CPL manages the team on the city’s behalf. There were discussions in 2018 about a possible sale of the Mustangs to Kansas-based National Sports Services, but they fell through because of unforeseen issues, one of which was believed to be the additional sale of Hooker Field.

NSS Chief Executive Officer Bill Davidson told the Bulletin at the time, “The decision to not move forward was strictly on our end.” However, he added, “We have not ruled out future participation with the Mustangs should an opportunity arise.”

Martinsville signed a 5-year contract with the CPL that was to end at the end of 2019. The city paid the league $10,000 in the 2018 fiscal year towards its expenses in managing the Mustangs, but paid nothing in the fiscal year beginning July 2018.

Although league officials have yet to comment on the future of the team, they did announce on July 9 the addition of an “expansion team” to the league that would play in Colonial Heights beginning next summer.

If all teams currently in the league were to stay in 2020, the additional team would be the 17th.

Calls and emails to the CPL at the time of the announced expansion were also unreturned. The league did not elaborate on its plans for 2020 beyond announcing the expansion.

Mustangs General Manager Ruthanne Duffy, who finished her first season as the team’s GM after serving as assistant GM in 2018, said her hope is that the team will return.

“Discussions are still being held between the city of Martinsville and the Coastal Plain League to determine what our future might be,” Duffy said in an email. “I hope to see the Mustangs continue to be in Martinsville after seeing so many improvements with our season. I feel confident that the city of Martinsville and the CPL will make the right decision. Having a competitive league, such as the Coastal Plain League, here in Martinsville certainly helps the quality of life for our residents.”

Looking back at 2019

Martinsville finished the 2019 season on Aug. 3 with an 18-34 record, fourth place in the CPL North division. Online attendance numbers weren’t readily available, but of the 15 home games with attendance listed the team averaged about 650 fans per game. The team averaged 570 fans per game in 2018, as reported by Ballpark Digest.

Head Coach Kregg Snook was in his first season after spending 2018 as the pitching coach.

Duffy said, although the record may not have reflected it, she was really pleased with the team Snook constructed and the way he coached.

“I am proud of the team that Coach Snook was able to put together. When playing their best, they could have competed with any team in the league,” she said. “The team had quite a few injuries occur to key players that were on the roster and those injuries happened fairly early in the season which most definitely impacted the team.

“Coach Snook and Coach [Taylor] Lockhart were amazing. They made our jobs so much easier by being very communicative with the front office and constantly asking, ‘What else can we do?’ ‘Can we help you with anything?’ Our coaching staff really put this organization first and I think our fans were able to recognize and appreciate the hard work.”

Duffy commended Snook on doing a “phenomenal job of recruiting not only great baseball players, but young men with character.”

Duffy also said she learned a lot in her second season in Martinsville and said the biggest focus heading into 2020 will be continuing to improve ticket sales consistently and finding more ways to involve the community and local business.

Looking ahead

If the team is back in 2020, she said he would “love to continue to help the organization.”

“Forging these relationships with the coaching staff, players, interns and businesses/people in our community has made this one of my favorite summers,” she said. “For 2020, I would love to be able to get our Mustangs out in the community more so people can see that these guys are able to provide more than just great baseball to the area.

“I believe our host families can attest to that. There are a lot of families out here in Martinsville right now that were incredibly sad to see their players leave to go home and are already planning trips to watch them play for their respective colleges and universities in the spring.

“I believe that if we can all work together and support one another, there can be many improvements when it comes to the Martinsville Mustangs and our community.”

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.