A Slice of Americana
Before today’s main topic, I wanted to share some good news. Once again The River 95-3 WZRV has been nominated by the Virginia Association of Broadcasters for Outstanding Sports Coverage for Shenandoah University Football. It’s humbling to be recognized by one’s peers, and as the person who does the play-by-play and produces the broadcasts each week, I am very honored, win or lose.
Now, on to today’s “Views From The Booth”. Another season of Valley League Baseball is underway in the Shenandoah Valley. For those that don’t know, the VBL is an NCAA-sanctioned league that is considered one of the top amateur leagues in the country, along with the Cape Cod & Alaska leagues. Players come from colleges big and small every Summer to stay sharp and hopefully catch the eye of a Major League scout. Some players (Jimmy Key comes to mind) even make it all the way to “The Show”, and former Winchester Royals coach Dayton Moore is now the GM of the Kansas City Royals.
VBL teams are based in towns from Winchester, all the way to Covington and Charlottesville, with players housed by residents of those communities. Players often work in those towns during the VBL season, as lifetime bonds are formed with host families, employers, and communities.
The ballparks range from Bing Crosby Stadium in Front Royal (nicknamed “The Bing”), which has a minor-league stadium look, to cozy venues like “Luxurious” Rebel Park in New Market. Every ballpark has it’s own traditions and personality. In Winchester, every home game is highlighted by the fans singing “Are You Loyal to the Winchester Royals.” I’m not sure if this still happens, but in New Market, a gentleman used to stroll through the crowd playing the accordion. Also at Rebel Park, with the purchase of a “box seat” (which were the green plastic patio chairs you get at places like Big Lots), a vendor would come to your seat and take your food order.
Speaking of food, you will not pay $7.50 for a hot dog at a Valley League game. Each park has it’s own concession items, but the staple ballpark food like hot dogs, popcorn and candy. Admission prices are very affordable, and local organizations and businesses have their own “nights” , with discount and sometimes free tickets being offered. It is truly affordable family fun.
Back-in-the day, I did some play-by-play for the Winchester Royals and fell in love with the Valley League. I loved the travel to Staunton, Waynesboro, New Market, and beyond. The VBL fits my romanticized view of baseball, with small town parks, bus rides, the guy you see behind home plate every night yelling at the ump, and local celebs throwing out the first pitch (I got to do this once at a Cardinals game, a blazing fastball down the middle).
Get to a Valley League game or 2 this Summer and sample a slice of Americana unique to our area. Who knows, you may just be watching a future major leaguer up close and personal. And, the $1.50 hot dogs taste just as good as the ones that require in-stadium financing!
That’s this week’s Views From The Booth…remember to like and share! GO HORNETS!