It is time to examine just how big of a deal it is for the town of Luray and the VBL to have the Wranglers finish the final Perfect Game Crosschecker Poll (PGCrosschecker) listed as the #4 team in the country. For the average fan of the VBL they recognize that Luray defeated the Covington Lumberjacks 3-0 in the finals to capture the Jim Lineweaver Cup for the second time in three years but the 2008 success goes well beyond that for Bill Turner's club.
The Wranglers and the VBL are part of a group known as the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball (NACSB). There are 8 leagues that compete under this banner each summer and I am going to take a second and list each league and the current numbers of teams in them...
Valley Baseball League - 12 teams
Cape Cod Baseball League - 10 teams
Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League - 11 teams
Central Illinois Collegiate League- 6 teams
Atlantic Collegiate League - 8 teams
Southern Collegiate Baseball League- 7 teams
Florida Collegiate Summer League - 6 teams
New York Collegiate League - 14 teams
Totals- 8 Leagues / 74 teams- All East of the Mississippi River
So the Wranglers finished fourth best out of 74 teams from all over the eastern part of the country? Nope- we are just getting started...
The next group of teams all play in leagues under the banner of "National Baseball Congress "..
This group is based out of Wichita, Kansas and includes 15 separate leagues that have their season conclude with a NBC World Series each season. The list doesn't stop with the 15 additional leagues that compete for the NBC title. The Northwoods League (14 teams) and Coastal Plains (14 teams) along with the Sierra Baseball League (founded in 2007-15 teams) are just a few of the bigger Summer Baseball Leagues that are run across the Nation each year.
The list of teams competing for the UN-official title of the country's best Summer League Team is in the area of 200 now. The efforts of the folks at PG Crosschecker to keep tabs on so many different teams from all over the US is pretty remarkable. The 6-team Alaskan League is another one of the leagues that supplies the Top 42 teams that play in the NBC World Series.
Now that I have attempted to paint a picture of just how many teams are out there competing each summer (and the list keeps growing with the addition of the 15 team Sierra League just 2 years ago), lets take a look at the accomplishments of the 2008 VBL Champions...
I was able to catch-up with the man behind the Luray Wranglers, Mr. Bill Turner and he was kind enough to share his thoughts on the Summer of 2008...
ATV-60: The Wranglers were one of a number of teams in the VBL that were waiting for a number of players to get to the Valley from Omaha (NCAA World Series), how was the early going for your ball club?
Bill Turner: After 14 games we were just 8-6 and I would of never dreamed we could reach the ranking of #4 in the country. (Note- Luray went 29-9 from there) (% .763!!!)
ATV-60: The arrival of the players from Ohio State University (Alex Wimmers, Drew Rucinski, Gus Miller and Andrew Armstrong) proved to be a windfall for the club. The VBL doesn't have a deep history with players from the Big 10 but that could change after the 2008 season. What does the ranking and the clubs success mean to you?
Bill Turner: I am very proud of the accomplishment of finishing #4 overall and I also think it was a huge accomplishment to beat the #1 team in the Nation in addition to the VBL Championship.
ATV-60: You mention the victory over the Vienna Senators when they were ranked #1 in the country. Luray won the game 12-4 at Bulldog Field just after Waynesboro edged the Senators by a final score of 1-0. I was just as impressed with your clubs ability to put on the event in such solid fashion as most folks were in your teams showing inside the lines. The entire event was put together in a matter of days, how did you get this done?
Bill Turner: As I said back then while it was happening, the support group we have here in the Luray organization is something very special. The way that the people in the community rally around this team is what makes things like the Vienna exhibition games possible.
ATV-60: The Wranglers dropped their playoff opener to Harrisonburg but then ran off 7 straight impressive playoff wins to collect the 2ND Lineweaver Cup during your tenure as the Owner of the Wranglers. When your season ended you were ranked third in the nation before finishing in the #4 spot. What are your thoughts on the system that is in place now and what do you think might help in the future?
Bill Turner : After winning the VBL Championship I was hoping to move up and thought we should of, however I am happy to be 4TH. I hope they define their system and consider the strength of the league, that would be a tremendous help to us. Another idea might be to rank the leagues and then to rank the teams accordingly.
ATV-60: Watching the 2008 Wranglers from a pretty good vantage point this summer has left me with a thought or two about the VBL and the level of competition in our Valley. You take a look at the seasons that Wimmers, Travis Smink (VMI), Rucinski and company had on the mound and one could think that this was a once in a lifetime event. Turner, Mike Bocock and Buck Harmon worked together to create a roster full of potential MLB players but in the same breath so did Lawrence Nesselrodt and the folks down in Waynesboro.
The Generals finished #20 in the final poll (At the end they expand the Top 16 to the Top 32) and there was another roster full of future pro prospects. The talent in the VBL is equal to any league in the Country right now and the fact that Luray is/was considered to be the #4 team in the country should not only help the Wranglers but should help the entire VBL.
It is time to spread the news- we play some pretty solid baseball here in the VBL! Covington swept the VBL regular season champs to reach the finals and Harrisonburg came within a run in the bottom of the ninth inning versus Luray of moving into the second round this season. The fact that we had two teams ranked in the Top 20 off 200+ clubs is like getting the keys to a new car but only if we are willing to take it out for a test spin. The accomplishments of the Wranglers this season could go a long way in helping the VBL compete with the other leagues around the country but as they say in the business- Let's shout it from the Roof Tops!
Other Notes - Ryan Schimpf (LSU) and Alex Koronis (Miami) were some of the other players that Luray was waiting on at the start of the VBL season. Ryan went on to capture the VBL Championship MVP award and Koronis posted 2 victories in about 24 hours during the 7 game run in the post season.