Saturday, June 2, 2012

Valley League Baseball

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 the light.

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 give up.

Top 10 Reasons You Should Support Valley League Baseball:

1. Closeness.  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 significantly greater.

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 games themselves.

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 community.


  1. Shoot, now even I want to go to a game!

    1. Well, come by and get some tickets! Seriously though, great guest post!