Monday, June 30, 2008

Coming Full Circle - written by Melissa Dodge


Coming Full Circle
Written by Melissa Dodge


For me, Valley League baseball embodies the purest form of the game. From hungry young men who are dreaming and striving to one day make it to "The Show" to enthusiastic kids scrabbling for foul balls in the parking lot to small town communities coming together to enjoy and revel in a traditional slice of Americana. These are just a few things that make my heart sing and bring me out to the ballpark nearly every night of the Shenandoah Valley summer. These bits and pieces combine with the personal interactions I've come to enjoy with my fellow fans and even perfect strangers in the ballpark grandstands.

During Thursday night's game against the Fauquier Gators I had the distinct pleasure of engaging in conversation with an older gentleman and his lovely wife, Cecelia. He mentioned he had met one of the New Market coaches on the golf course that day who encouraged him to come to the ballgame that evening. As it turned out the gentleman, Mr. Ed Hite, had more than just a casual interest in watching a baseball game.

Ed played ball himself back in the day, in fact he had played shortstop for the New Market Rebels in the late 1950's and early 60's with one season spent playing for Front Royal somewhere in that span. Ed talked about how the teams during his tenure were comprised of not just college players but local talent as well. At that time all the bats-no matter where you played- were made of wood and players had just one uniform for home and away games.

It came as a complete surprise to find out that the diamond orientation at Rebel Park has changed. In Ed's day he said that home plate actually lay where left field is today. I have written previously about how the VBL experience is a mutally beneficial enterprise between players and communities and that it prepares these young men for life beyond the baseball diamond. Mr. Ed Hite is a perfect example of this.

Ed attended Virginia Tech and played Hokie baseball. Not being a man of means at the time he was faced with the possibility of not being able to continue his pursuit of a college degree unless he found some financial backing. In appealing to his coach for help he was able to secure a partial scholarship and remain in school.

Ed went on to play minor league ball for the Salem Rebels (a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate) before settling into a career and family life in the Northern Virginia area. Ed was fortunate to have done well in his career and in gratitude for the help he had received all those years ago he has endowed a scholarship at Va. Tech for a deserving young ball player.

I'm sure that I've forgotten more than I remembered about my conversation with Ed. In any case it will be one of my ballpark memories that I will treasure for years to come. And thanks to that lively interaction with Ed somehow it didn't sting quite as much when my battle weary Rebels fell by just a run.

I hope to continue that conversation with Ed Hite in the future. I had a sense that being at Rebel Park again reignited that baseball spark in Ed's heart. I think that finding his way back to watch some more games will be easy as a "can of corn."

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