A Valley Tradition Begins Again
Greetings From The Booth!
Well, June is here, and with it comes cookouts, graduations, Father’s Day, and for most area children, summer vacation!!!! Remember that last day of school, as you cleaned out that locker and in a full sprint, rocketed out of the school and into a seemingly endless summer? Good times…good times.
With the arrival of June, baseball starts to take center stage, but the Washington Capitals still have some unfinished business. We Caps fans were on the ledge (again) after a Game 1 loss to Vegas in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, but as I’ve said before, this Capitals team seems to be different from Caps playoff teams of the past. A gutsy, resilient Game 2 win sends the series back to DC for Game 3 on Sunday night.
Back to baseball, where the Nats are back where they belong, near the top of the NL East. After an 11-16 start, the Nationals start today just a half-game back of the Braves, who appear to be for real. The Nats were actually in first place until the Bravos won game 1 of a big weekend series with Washington, 4-2.
Speaking of baseball, an area tradition begins again tonight, as college players from around the country converge on the Shenandoah Valley for another season of Valley League Baseball action. The VBL was started in 1923 and is funded in part by a grant from Major League Baseball, and is sanctioned by the NCAA. Players are housed by residents of the community in which they play, and spend some of their down time performing community service and hosting youth baseball clinics in those towns.
The ballparks range from high-school fields to stadiums like Bing Crosby Stadium in Front Royal, and each team has it’s own nuances, game-day menus, and traditions. For example, the Winchester Royals have their own song that is played at each home game, “Are You Loyal To The Winchester Royals.” There used to be a gentleman that would stroll through the crowd at Rebel Park in New Market while playing the accordion.
The motto of the VBL is “Gateway To The Majors”, as most of the players have dreams of making it to the “show.” The Nats’ Daniel Murphy is a Valley League alum, having played in the league in 04-05. Jimmy Key, Wayne Comer, and Mo Vaughn are all notables who played in the major leagues.
The VBL is a real-life version of the romanticized version of baseball that we have in our minds: long bus trips where players from different backgrounds and cultures get to know one another, small-town ballparks, the crack of wooden-bats. Not to mention the lifelong bonds that are formed between the players and residents. Robert Bowman, GM of the Woodstock River Bandits, told me that he’s received several wedding invitations from several of his former players. There are a million stories like that.
So get out there starting tonight, and support your local Valley League team. It’s a great brand of baseball, it’s inexpensive entertainment for the entire family, and you may even be watching (and get to know) future major league stars.
Until next visit from the Booth, GO GRADS, GO NATS, GO CAPS…and GO HORNETS!
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