Greetings, one and all! I am very honored to be making a guest appearance here today at Staci's invitation. She has asked me to concoct a post on a subject that is very near and dear to my heart: the Valley Baseball League (or VBL, for short.)
If what follows sounds like a cross between a sales pitch and
baseball evangelism, it's only because I am thoroughly convinced the VBL
is the greatest thing on the planet. And if you're a baseball fan who
hasn't discovered this yet, I consider it my sacred duty to make you see
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the league, it is made up
of 12 teams which are located throughout the Shenandoah Valley. You'll
find them in Haymarket, Front Royal, Luray, Strasburg, Winchester,
Woodstock, Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, Rockbridge, Covington and
my hometown of New Market. Each team is comprised of elite college
players who come here from all over the country.
I can't think of any good reasons NOT to patronize your local VBL
ballpark this summer... but I can think of plenty why you should. I've
made a list of ten of them. If you still aren't convinced, well, then I
Top 10 Reasons You Should Support Valley League Baseball:
Everyone loves a big-league ball game. The roar of the crowd, the
verdure of that pristinely manicured grass, the superstar players. I
enjoy these things as much as anyone. They are fun! They are exciting!
And yet, attending a major league baseball game is kind of like visiting
a well-to-do person's house, or staying at a fancy hotel. It's
charming, sure, but after a while you've had your fill of it and are
ready to go home. The Valley League is the baseball equivalent of
"home". It may not have the grand appeal of "The Show", but it's
comfortable, and it's intimate. It's quaint, in the best sort of way.
There's a closeness here that you won't find many other places.
2. Affordability. Tickets to any given VBL contest will only
set you back $5. You can't see a movie, or eat out, or do pretty much
anything for less than that these days. Plus, the entertainment is
3. Future-Star Gazing. We may not be the Cape Cod League, but
the VBL has produced its fair share of Major League talent. And let me
tell you, there aren't a whole lot of things more thrilling than seeing a
guy you cheered on as a college sophomore making it to the big time.
4. Antics. College ballplayers are infamous for their
shenanigans. At VBL games, you can see things you wouldn't be privy to
anywhere else. In 2006, my New Market Rebels bullpen would put on
choreographed routines from their post beyond the left field wall
whenever our best home run hitter came to the plate. Last season, a
visiting squad built a fire in their bullpen and were roasting
marshmallows. It didn't go on long as someone was expeditiously
dispatched to discourage this pyromaniacal behavior, but it was amusing
while it lasted. These creative antics can often be entertaining as the
5. Wooden bats. The main advantage Valley League Baseball has
over ordinary college match-ups is the bats. If you are any kind of
baseball purist, then the ping of aluminum bats is about as pleasant a
sound as fingernails on a chalkboard. There is nothing, nothing lovelier
than the sound of a wood bat meeting a baseball. On summer nights in
the Shenandoah Valley those sweet sounds echo from Haymarket to
Covington and everywhere in between.
6. Warm fuzzies, sportsmanship, etc., In a world of crazed
Little League parents, professional athletes behaving like brats and
punks, etc., it's nice to see groups of young men who still shake hands
when the game is over. That element of sportsmanship is alive and well
in the Valley. It does my heart good, and it always will.
7. Rivalries. I don't want to boast or anything, but when it
comes to good old fashioned baseball rivalries, I know my stuff. I
support a certain Major League franchise based on the North Side of
Chicago. There's more than a little history there. I can tell you with
the utmost conviction that the rivalries you'll see in the VBL are as
fierce as any that the bigs have to offer. Yankees-Red Sox,
Cubs-Cardinals? They've got nothing on the New Market Rebels and Luray
Wranglers. So if you're into intense, hard-fought baseball, you can find
it (and then some) here in the Shenandoah Valley.
8. Togetherness. What better way to spend a lovely summer evening than at a ballgame with your family or friends?
9. Good baseball.
Don't think for a second that you won't see great games played in the
VBL. Sure, there might be some infield throws that sail into the dugout
and the occasional Little League quality umpire, but for the most part,
the level of play here is excellent. Patronize the VBL and you will
witness intense pitching duels, nail-biting 9th innings, and web gems
galore. Most of the most thrilling and wonderful games I have ever
experienced were right in my own backyard.
10. Involvement. If you are inclined to take your fandom to
the next level (and, take my word for it, if you hang around long
enough, you almost certainly will be), there are any number of ways to
involve yourself and volunteer for your favorite team. You could take
tickets or man the souvenir stand. You could house a player for the
summer. You could moonlight in the internet radio broadcast booth. My
family is responsible for making sure our Rebels are well-fed after
every home game. The work isn't always easy, but it is rewarding 101% of
the time and it's a fantastic way to contribute to your team and your