My Monday night started out in front of Memorial Stadium where I had hoped to catch the Fauquier Gators vs. Harrisonburg Turks game. I learned something new that night- if your team has called the game early enough you can use the VBL site and/or hot line to possibly save yourself a trip to an empty ball yard.
I was determined to see some VBLers take their cuts so while Rebecca and her Uncle Wayne headed over the mall (sadly, with the camera) I called Bernie Schaffler (1 of the Haymarket owners) to see if they were playing baseball up in Woodstock. Bernie informed me that there was indeed a Senators-River Bandits game going on there at Central High School. This game had been haunted just like the Gator-Turks tilt in that this was the third or fourth attempt to get it played.
When I arrived at the park I noticed that John (ATV) was taking notes and that Haymarket Joe was shooting away with his camera so I went and did my favorite thing to do in the VBL- hang out in the River Bandits press box. The group of folks that work the box for Stu have known each other for going on 40 years and they love to tell stories. Roger, Mickey, Larry and Jeff are all like myself- trying to mix a little fun in with a great baseball game as a back drop.
Craig Orndorff was doing the web-cast, John Leonard was writing about the game and Haymarket Joe was providing the art work, I have a TON of respect for these men and their commitment to their crafts (click over to John's site for a game report).. Sorry about the delay but I just clicked over there myself to see if John had posted a story about the Vienna games against Luray and Waynesboro and he had and then some!
With the Woodstock game being covered by some of the best in the business I headed upstairs for a 2+ hour laugh fest with the gang. Having Larry Smoot there was icing on the cake and he shared the bulk of the stories. Not only is Larry married to one of the most successful volleyball coaches in our area, he is the father to Strasburg's Kaitlin Smoot. If you have read my blog or my book than you already know just how special this young lady is to me!
I just assumed that Kaitlin picked up her skills and grace from Mom but Larry shared some of his baseball heroics with me. Larry was a member of the Va. Tech baseball team in the mid-seventies that still holds the D-I record for most consecutive wins in one season. This group of Hokies strung together 34 straight regular season wins and that mark still stands after 3 decades. Larry didn't stop there, he went on to share stories about the gang that expanded 4 decades.
I knew that Roger and Mickey played little league baseball back in the day but I didn't know until just recently that Larry played with them. Back then there was no high school baseball in the county so Mickey ended up playing catcher for the New Market team about the same time Larry was down at Va.Tech. I mentioned Mike Bocock and that opened another flood gate of stories from Larry and Co. I did not know that Mike was once a successful Quarterback on the football field as well as a baseball player.
Some of the longer stories I cut the tape recorder on for but I can say that everyone in the room was enjoying the time together. Jeff Walters didn't make it by until later but he was still able to share a laugh or two. Us USC-Aiken folks have to watch out for each other but I must note that Jeff actually attended school there will I just ran promotions through the AD's office.
The game wasn't on the VBL web site or listed in any of the newspapers so the crowd was a little light and the official Press coverage was limited but the two groups that were there at Central Monday night (Craig/H-Joe/John) (Wdst/ATV-60) made sure everything was good to go. I can honestly say that if the Baseball Powers to Be came along as said you can only keep one
of the many hats you are trying to wear and that I must choose- it would really difficult not to want to spend next season hanging out with this group of friends in Woodstock.
I have been there and done that in life but because my Dad was in the military I never had a chance to have friends that close for over 4 decades. The fact that these guys choose to allow me to hang out with them is as Stuart Scott of ESPN would say- AS COOL AS THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PILLOW !!!
The night that started slow had one more pleasant surprise left for me as I went in search of a computer screen to watch Maddux pitch. John was waiting for me and the two of us had a great conversation that had to go on for 45 minutes to an hour. The two of us had participated in some group conversations but it was great to get to know more about the MAN that is ALL THINGS VALLEY LEAGUE. How important was the time with John? I missed two+ innings of a Maddux start to be there.....