The Prospect League and the City of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, announced an expansion franchise will play at Capaha Field beginning in 2019.

The Prospect League teams based in Hannibal and Quincy have engaged in what has become known as the “Battle for the Paddle” since first squaring off in the summer of 2009.

They will need to make room for another squad to enter the Mississippi River baseball rivalry. 

The Prospect League and the City of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, announced an expansion franchise for the summer wood-bat circuit will play at Capaha Field beginning with the 2019 season. 

Businessman Anand “Andy” Patel owns the new franchise and has, along with the city, assembled a management group that includes Vice President Jim Limbaugh and General Manager Mark Hogan, who spent 31 years as a college head coach, including 18 at Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau. 

“Cape is a baseball-loving city,” Hogan said. “We love our baseball, and the fans are well-educated. It’s an outstanding league, and to be able to help develop a program, it’s super exciting. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to have the experience that I have and to now be able to use it for a project in this community.”

Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger welcomed media and fans to a recently-completed SportsPlex for the announcement. Rediger and City Manager Scott Meyer were primary advocates of working with the Prospect League and its commissioner, Dennis Bastien, from the early research and planning stages.

“Since accepting the commissioner position a year ago, it has been one of my primary goals to work Cape Girardeau into the fold,” said Bastien, a Southeast Missouri State alum. “I have never seen a city or municipal administration take the ball and run with it as Mayor Rediger has. It’s a great baseball community that fits into our goals with league expansion, and this new franchise has high-quality people backing it at many levels.”

The expansion team will play its home games at city-owned Capaha Field, which also serves as the home ballpark for Southeast Missouri State and other local programs.

Prior to the summer of 2019, several upgrades to the ballpark related to fan experience and business operations are expected to take place, in addition to the recently-completed updates that include a new artificial turf playing surface, bullpens, scoreboard, video board and fencing.

The franchise's front office plans to seek community input on decisions such as team name, logo, mascot and colors.

“It’s fresh in Cape right now, I have my first speaking engagement with the Lions Club already set up,” Hogan said. “I think I can speak for the community on this. Cape is really going to get around this, I’m sure.”

The Cape Girardeau franchise appears to be a natural fit for the league's West Division, which already includes teams in Danville, Springfield and Quincy, Illinois; Terre Haute and Lafayette, Indiana; and Hannibal.

Hannibal will field a team in the league this summer for the first time since 2016.

The Cavemen, Hannibal's former club, folded in January 2017.

Rick DeStefane, a Hannibal businessman and former Cavemen co-owner, was central to the effort to bring a Prospect League team back to Clemens Field this summer.

The launch of the newly-named Hannibal Hoots, for which DeStefane is the full-rights owner and Matt Stembridge is the general manager, pushes the league to 11 teams for the upcoming summer.

Cape Girardeau, situated 220 miles south of Hannibal, would be the Hoots' third-closest geographic opponent among current teams, following Quincy and Springfield.

“It's another river partner for us and Quincy and creates that rivalry that you like to see," Stembridge said of his club's new Missouri rival. "A trip to Cape Girardeau will look a lot different than a trip to Butler, Pennsylvania, or Beckley, West Virginia."

The Butler (Pa.) BlueSox and West Virginia Miners are the easternmost teams in the league. 

Bastien wants the league to grow to 14 teams for the 2019 season and at least 16 by 2020. 

“For ’19 and ’20, it’s my goal as a commissioner and our goal as a league to get to a minimum of 16, which would then create divisional play with easier scheduling,” the commissioner told the Courier-Post in September. “What we would likely do then is go to an east and west conference with maybe even two divisions in each conference.”