After 14 seasons in the Appalachian League, the Astros are leaving Greeneville. The team announced the move in a statement on Friday night, and Appy League president Lee Landers confirmed the move on Saturday morning. Despite the move, Landers has no doubt that there will be baseball at Pioneer Park in Tennessee next season.
“We have major league clubs that have expressed an interest to come into the league. Since (the Astros) went through Major League Baseball and not through (the Appalachian League), Major League Baseball is handling that,” Landers said. “I’m very, very optimistic that we’re going to be able to fill that.”
Greeneville general manager David Lane—who also oversees the Buies Creek Astros and will oversee the team’s high Class A affiliate in Fayetteville, N.C. in 2019—said that the Astros would not be replacing Greeneville with another minor league club elsewhere. Rather, Houston would operate domestically with a Gulf Coast League team, short-season Tri-City in the New-York Penn League and their four full-season clubs in Quad Cities, Buies Creek, Corpus Christi and Fresno.
"The Greeneville club played a key role in our player development and minor league success throughout our rebuilding years," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a statement. "We are very thankful to Tusculum College, Scott Niswonger, the Greeneville community and to the fans for their support over the years. This decision enables us to focus and prioritize our player development efforts in a way that delivers the best long-term results."
Greeneville drew 35,505 fans to Pioneer Park—on the campus of Tusculum College—in 2017, a 15.2 percent drop from its 2016 total.
"We want to thank all of our fans and sponsors for their passion and loyalty over the last (14) years," Lane said in a statement. "We especially want to thank Scott and Nikki Niswonger and Tusculum College for all of their support over the years. Thank you to everyone that made our time in Greeneville a fun adventure.”