The Jamestown Jammers were a minor league baseball team based in Jamestown, New York from 1994 until 2014. The team was the Short-Season A classification affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates and played in the New York–Penn League. The team played all of their home games at Russell Diethrick Park.
On August 25, 2014, a week before the end of the 2014 season, it was announced that the team would cease operations in Jamestown and be relocated to Morgantown, West Virginia, beginning in 2015. That year, the club, which is owned by Bob Rich, Jr., began play at Monongalia County Ballpark, as the West Virginia Black Bears.
Another team bearing the Jamestown Jammers name played in the Prospect League, an amateur collegiate summer baseball league, in 2015. A new Jammers team is set to play in 2016 as a member of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
The team was previously based in Niagara Falls, New York as the Niagara Falls Rapids, a Detroit Tigers affiliate. Their home stadium in Niagara Falls was Sal Maglie Stadium. The team played in Niagara Falls from 1989–1993.
The team was preceded in Jamestown by the Jamestown Falcons (initially known as the Jamestown Jaguars) and the Jamestown Expos. The Expos had played in Jamestown up until the 1993 season, when the team moved to Vermont and became known as the Vermont Lake Monsters.
In 1994, immediately following the Expos' departure, the Rapids moved to Jamestown and assumed the name "Jamestown Jammers." The Jamestown Expos had left the city after the 1993 season, relocating to Vermont. The new team was named the "Jammers" after a fan vote, with the winning name beating out others such as the All-Americans, Furniture Makers, Jimmies, Lakers, Lucys, Muskies and Steamers. The team's logo was a Tasmanian devil-esque character. The mascot was a similar character named J.J. Jammer.
In the off-season before the 2006 season, in an attempt to put an end once and for all to the "what is a Jammer?" questions, the Jammers changed their logo to a cartoon grape theme. The new logo represents the strong tradition of grape-growing in Chautauqua County. On June 19, 2006, the eve of opening day, the team officially announced the name of its new mascot: Bubba Grape, the Baseball Ape.
After a decade of affiliation with the Florida/Miami Marlins, the Jammers signed a player development contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 18, 2012.
Although Rich also owns the Buffalo Bisons, a higher-level minor league baseball team in the same media market, he never affiliated the two teams with the same parent club during the Jammers' time in Jamestown, and as a result, the two teams have always been in separate farm systems.
Published reports released in March 2013 (and reiterated in August 2014) indicated that the Jammers were the leading candidate for relocation after the league announced it would be relocating one of its franchises to the campus of West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia in 2015. The team's new name, the West Virginia Black Bears, was selected shortly after the Jammers' last game.
Rich, who will continue to own the team, confirmed the news in a press conference on August 25, 2014, as did officials from the city of Jamestown, who indicated that the New York–Penn League had been trying to get out of Jamestown for several years (the league had been in the city continuously since 1960 and intermittently since the league's launch in 1939, long after nearby cities such as Bradford, Olean and Wellsville had lost their pro teams; it was one of only two of the league's charter cities still with a team, and the other, Batavia, began seeking a relocation and sale not long after). Rich Baseball still has one year remaining on its lease with Diethrick Park, and it is unknown how the team will fulfill the terms of the lease. Attendance declines were a major factor in the team's departure; while in 2009, the team was still drawing close to the league average in attendance, the team averaged less than 800 fans per game in 2014 and had lost half of its attendance in the past five years (this may have also been a result of the fans knowing the team was leaving). The other factor in the team's departure was the decrepitude of Russell Diethrick Park; other teams in the league were refusing to use the facilities there, and the attendance declines made it impossible to fund upgrades that the city and other entities that used the ballpark also refused to finance.
The Jamestown Jammers intellectual property rights were then transferred to what had previously been the Lorain County Ironmen of the Prospect League, a collegiate summer baseball league. The Ironmen relocated to Jamestown and took on the Jammers identity.
The amateur Jammers played one season in the Prospect League before the owners relocated the franchise to Lafayette, Indiana. In its place is another Jammers team, set to play 2016 in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League; the Jammers ownership cited distance and the opportunities to renew old rivalries for the change in leagues.
(from Baseball Reference Bullpen)
* – The Jammers and Batavia Muckdogs finished in a virtual tie for first place in the Pinckney Division in the 2008 season; however, the Muckdogs played two fewer games, finishing at 46–28 to the Jammers' 47–29. The Muckdogs' .622 winning percentage gave them the division title over the Jammers' .618.