There and Back Again: ATV-60 Style (by Melissa Dodge)

At the beginning of the 2007 VBL season I set a goal to try and visit all of the away ballparks at least once during the season. As a host mom for a Rebels player and an avid fan I feel it is my duty to make as many games as possible to support the young man that we have welcomed into our home as our "summer son." I came close--falling short by 2 (Staunton and Haymarket). At the end of the season I knew that I would have to wait to pick up those two during the 2008 season. Imagine my surprise and delight when I ran into our intrepid ATV-60 leader at the annual Rebels Christmas party and he pitched this crazy idea. I immediately told Jerry I was all in! Little did I know the broad dimensions that would unfold with this project, and though he was hopeful, I don't think Jerry did either.

As winter began to drag on and spring was just a wishful promise I spotted the link for ATV-60 while perusing the Rebels website. Oh no! Somehow I had missed the promotion kick-off celebration held at my very own homestand---Rebel Park! I wasn't off to a very good start was I? That's when I noticed that the website Jerry had created for ATV-60 was actually an interactive blog. Though I had never blogged before I gave it a whirl and left a comment among the small handful that were there----like little seeds waiting to grow. And grow they did! The ATV-60 blog site now bursts with news, comments, pictures, and shared memories on a daily basis as it has become an effective vehicle to link the various VBL fans, supporters, players, and parents together.

Like a little kid I couldn't wait to get my hands on my passport as if it were the keys to the ATV-60 Kingdom. When Jerry and his family came around to Rebel Park for their official visit and introduction of ATV-60 I was the lucky winner of 4 passes to one of the New Market--Luray "Battle of the Mountain" games at Bulldog Field in Luray. This small windfall was to be the first of many "paybacks" that I've received through participating in the program. With each stamp I got closer and closer to reaching the goal. Along the way I can't tell you how many times I obsessively checked the pocket of my stadium chair to be sure my passport was still there--ready for its next stamp and bearing witness to all the places I'd been so far.

I thought at first that I would be the only one from my family to seriously tackle this challenge as the "Mister"--Charlie-- was bogged down with a late end to his school year, weekend hikes & canoe trips with the Boy Scouts, a week's worth of recertification classes in Hampton, and a week at Camp Rock Enon---which could make it difficult for him to complete the loop. Our daughter, Hannah, was spending 6 weeks in Paris doing her Art Student thing, and son Noah had committed to being away at camp for several weeks. I wasn't alone for long as Noah's plans changed and he was now free to chase the dream with me---he might as well since he was going to the games with me anyway! As we chugged along his enthusiasm picked up and he always insisted on getting our cards stamped as soon as we arrived at each ballpark. Not one to be out done, Charlie has risen to the challenge and has joined in on the fun too. It was quite fitting and in sync with the spirit of this promotion (to help unite and promote the VBL) that when we arrived at the Staunton game last night a gentleman approached us and asked if we had passes. When we replied “no” he nonchalantly handed over 4 free passes and then just walked away as we stammered our disbelieving gratitude.

One of the most wonderful benefits that I experienced through the ATV-60 promotion is that I became aware of, and now appreciate, how each ballpark and team has their own distinct identity and yet there are certain basic patterns that emerge from park to park. From hardworking owners/general managers, to supportive fan bases, to culinary specialties each park/team/fanbase has its own unique areas where it shines. I've also had the opportunity to meet and interact with some really great VBL fans. I plan to create and post my own list of ballpark and team highlights in the very near future.

Tonight Charlie, Noah, and I are scheduled to throw out our first pitch (if the weather holds!). I couldn’t be prouder that we are doing this together as this journey and our involvement with the Rebels has always been a family affair. I am also proud to have been a part of this once in a lifetime experience. This may be a one time promotion but the far-reaching effects have set a tide of interest and VBL pride in motion that can’t be quelled. A big thank you goes out to Jerry and his lovely and supportive family for this wonderful opportunity. You have accomplished a momentous feat which I think will reap untold and ceaseless rewards. Your unbridled enthusiasm is contagious and the VBL and all of her supporters are all the better for it. You threw a mighty big rock into the pond my friend, now watch the ripples grow and spread---isn’t it beautiful?


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