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Second summer college team added at Burlington’s stadium

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By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

An additional baseball team will be a tenant in the coming months at Burlington Athletic Stadium, giving the venue two collegiate summer league teams.

The new team will be connected to the Appalachian League’s Burlington Sock Puppets, but play as a part-time member of the Old North State League.

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The second team will be called the Burlington Sock Pups, kind of an understudy to the other college-level team. The secondary team is set to have numerous players with area ties.

The result is an additional 13 games at the stadium.

“This is complementary to what we have been doing,” said Anderson Rathbun, who’s general manager of the teams, “to get more opportunities for people to get to see more baseball.”

Sock Pups home games will come when the Appalachian League team is on the road. There also will be 12 road games for the Sock Pups.

The additional team allows weekend dates to be filled in at the stadium when the Sock Puppets are on the road. Game night operations won’t change regardless of which team is playing, Rathbun said.

“It doesn’t matter what the league is for us,” he said. “We wanted this to be an addition to Sockville. We’re treating it exactly the same.”

The local team operators are charged with putting together a roster, so Rathbun said that naturally is going to lead to more players from the region playing for the team.

Early roster construction for the Sock Pups includes Guilford College infielders Ethan George (from Williams) and Aidan McCandless (from Western Alamance), Mount Olive infielder Blake Freeman (from Southern Alamance), Rockingham Community College catcher Parker Evans (from Southern Alamance), and Burlington Christian Academy catcher Nathan Rose.

There’s likely to be a mix of current college freshmen and soon-to-graduate high school players comprising the roster.

“What is really going to be cool is giving that local kid that maybe got overlooked a chance to play here,” Rathbun said.

The Sock Pups’ season begins May 24, while the Sock Puppets don’t start until June 4 (with the home opener June 7).

The Danville Otterbots of the Appalachian League also have a similar arrangement by fielding a team (named the Danville Dairy Daddies) in the ONSL

“The ONSL is excited to announce the addition of Burlington Baseball Club to the league for the summer of 2024 and beyond,” Eric Sibrizzi, commissioner of the ONSL, said in a statement. “Like Danville, in 2024, the team will be considered a part-time member and expansion team and will be tagged as a full-time member going into the summer of 2025.”

Because of the part-time nature of membership during the 2024 season, the Sock Pups won’t be eligible to advance to ONSL playoffs or have team members selected for the ONSL All-Star Game.

The ONSL once had the Swepsonville Sweepers among its members. A three-season stretch for the Sweepers ended after the 2022 season.

The Sock Puppets, who played their first season in 2021 after the last scheduled season of professional baseball of the Burlington Royals was cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic, are overseen by Major League Baseball as a prospect development circuit. USA Baseball assists with player selection, and players with Alamance County ties have played for the Burlington club in the new Appalachian League.

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