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A Summer Tradition Returns
Greetings from The Booth!
With Shenandoah University Spring sports now finished, all is quiet in The Booth, except for some post-season housecleaning. Congrats to SU Baseball’s Colby Martin, who was just named All-America by D3baseball.com, becoming the 13th Hornet student-athlete in program history to be so honored. Martin, who hit .482 during SU’s recent 31-11 season, was earlier named ODAC Player of the Year. And he’s just a freshman! We may one day see him in “The Show.”
Speaking of “The Show,” hundreds of college baseball players are converging on the Shenandoah Valley, as they try to hone their craft in The Valley Baseball League, and one day make it to the majors. The so-called “Gateway To The Majors” returns after a 2020 of empty ballparks around the area due to COVID. Having a VBL season again is certainly a sign that things are returning to normal after a Summer of no county fairs, no festivals, and no baseball.
For those that don’t know, the Valley Baseball League is an NCAA-sanctioned Summer league, and regarded as one of the top amateur leagues in the country, along with the Cape Cod and Alaska leagues. The VBL was started in 1923 (with the NCAA sanctioning the league in 1961), and has produced a host of major-leaguers.
That list includes Mo Vaughn, Javy Lopez, former Orioles Chris Hoiles and Johnny Oates, Front Royal’s Reggie Sanders, Winchester’s Jimmy Key, and I have to include a great West Virginian, Phillie’s great John Kruk.
But the Valley League is more than that. It’s a tradition, a slice of Americana. It’s about the friendships that are formed between players and their adopted Summer communities and host families, some that last a lifetime. It’s about long bus rides to Staunton, Waynesboro, Charlottesville, and Covington that take us back to our romanticized idea of America’s Pastime. It’s about ballparks like “The Bing” and Rebel Park. It’s about singing “Are You Loyal To The Royals” at Bridgeforth Field. And it’s about feeding a family of 4 without taking out a second mortgage.
The Valley Baseball League is a common thread in the fabric of our Shenandoah Valley that was sorely missed last year. So, this weekend, welcome the players back with open arms, even get to know a few. Attend a game or two, have a hot dog and soda, and celebrate the return of an area tradition.
A few years from now, you just may even be able to say, “I knew him when…”
Until next visit from The Booth, enjoy the VBL, and GO HORNETS!