A VBL Town and the importance of the Team

Melissa and
Charlie Dodge

Their take on the Valley League and what it means to be a part of it.

The Valley League is not just about baseball. Players, host families, and the media have heard this statement many times before. But how can this be when so much time and effort has been expended in finding and recruiting top notch athletes to come to this beautiful valley to play baseball; nights and nights of baseball? That is one of the many multidimensional layers of the Valley Baseball League that makes it so endearing and rewarding. The New Market Rebels have always stressed the importance of community involvement. This intersecting two-way street plays out in so many ways. The community supports the team from providing meals to employment to places to call home. In turn the Rebels do so much to support community activities from parades to camps to promoting literacy. For going on 8 years the Rebels have teamed up with the New Market Library to host "Reading with the Rebels". Local librarian and staunch Rebel supporter Becky Kipps has organized this wonderful activity over the years. Yesterday's turnout was amazing. 60 children and over a dozen Rebels baseball players turned out to share books, play games, and just plain enjoy spending a glorious day in the Shenandoah Valley together. Though a bit shy at first (both players and kids) as the reading and sharing of books began the hesitancy melted away. The children were glued to every word the players said, many of them getting an opportunity to hang out with their ballpark heroes or just spending time and receiving attention from these much older "cool" college guys. As a Reading Specialist myself I would have been ecstatic if it had been all about the reading but those kids and players came for something more: WHIFFLE BALL! I'm not quite sure who had more fun (my money is on the players) but there is nothing more satisfying and heartwarming than to watch top caliber college athletes getting owned at their own game by a bunch of kids! I stopped counting the over the fence homers after about the 20th--I sure hope Riley Cooper doesn't have any serious intentions of trading the pitchers' mound for his usual centerfield home. Those little sluggers were on him like ants on a twizzler! While the kids played (both big and little) I had the opportunity to chat with--ok, I'm being generous, I had the chance to listen to Mo Weber on his 85th birthday talk about the opportunities that the Valley League experience affords these young men. He reiterated again the desire of the team, and I believe the VBL, to attract young men of not just ability but character and to instill in them the importance of personal growth and development in addition to honing their athletic skills . Mo deftly pointed out that though a good many of these young men may one day be drafted by MLB or may go on to play some form of semi-pro ball many of them will not. But, by providing such a rich experience for these players the Rebels and the VBL are growing fine young men of character who will go out into the world and in various ways will make their mark upon it in a positive way. As a host family we can't place a measure on the satisfaction that we enjoy in being able to provide a home away from home for these players and it is difficult to express how these young men have enriched our lives in turn. In the pursuit of my Master's degree in reading I learned that perhaps the most important role that a parent can play in the development of their burgeoning readers is to be a strong literacy model. By showing yourself as a reader and sharing your reading expeiences with your children you are laying a strong foundation for them to build upon. Merely being exposed to and involved in reading activities builds the first layer of becoming a reader. I see parallels of this philosophy in the Valley League. As host families and communities we are providing a citizenship model for our visiting ball players by exposing them to new and different experiences, locales, traditions, and perspectives. This exposure to the outside world sometimes stretches these young men beyond their usual comfort zone which will better prepare them for the rigors and pitfalls of either professional sports or life in general. But most importantly it will lay a foundation of commitment, community involvement, gernerosity, and caring which these young men and these communities will carry with them throughout their lives. What can be more satisfying or rewarding than that?

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