Thursday, May 15, 2008

Kevin Kouzmanoff trying to help Greg Maddux

The year was 2002 and a young infielder (Kevin Kouzmanoff) from the University of Nevada came to the Valley League to play ball for the Winchester Royals.The 6'1 righty from Newport Beach, California returned to Nevada and was drafted in the 6th round by the Clevland Indians and made the bigs at Jacobs Field in 2006.

Kouzmanoff is playing third base for the Padres this year after coming over to the National League. Today Kouz made a series of nice plays behind Greg Maddux as the professor went in search of victoty #351.

The Padre offense is struggling this season and today was/is no different.Ryan Dempster has sparkled for the Cubs,limiting SD to just one hit into the sixth and the home team broke-up the 0-0 tie in the fifth to knock Maddux out of the game.

Is there anyone out there from Winchester that has any fond memories of Kouz from his stay in the Valley?

Check out the VBL site for a complete listing of all former VBL stars that have made it to the show!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

1 win, 1 loss, 1 serious sunburn & Memories galore!

A smarter person than myself might have thought thru sitting directly in the 90 degree Texas sun for 6+ hours but what can I say. Atleast the sunburn kept me awake for the 346 mile drive back to Dallas- Ft. Worth.Now, sitting on the airplane in a few hours could be interesting!

It was hard to imagine a situation where so much Luray Wrangler / Valley League baseball could be on display 1800+ miles from home. The opener started at 1:00 p.m.

sharp and the first thing you had to notice was the "artifical dirt" that covered the infield. I am sure they have a creative name for it by now but the only dirt on the diamond was on the mound.

The stadium at Texas Tech (Dan Law Field)was beautiful but with school out for the Red Raiders there wasn't a large crowd at the park. Dallas Baptist (34-17) led the opener 2-0 before posting a four spot on the home team in the top of the seventh inning. Wrangler-to-be Clay Kelly laid down a perfect suicide squezze bunt during the rally to reach base for the third straight time.

Kelly pushed his streak to four straight by drawing a walk during a 2-run rally in the eighth to push the lead to 8-0 behind starting pitcher Jared Stafford. Stafford finally allowed the Big 12 team to score in the bottom of the eighth but former Wrangler Wayne Dowling came in from the pen to hold the lead at 8-4.

Dowling pitched 2/3 of an inning and was credited with a "held" and fellow former Wrangler Drew Pirtle played a big part in both late charges by the Patriots. Pirtle had a pinch-hit single in the seventh and came around to score.Pirtle followed that with a RBI single in the eighth and scored for the second time.

Pirtle finished the opener with an impressive line of 2-2, 2 runs scored, 1 RBI- all in two innings of work.

In between games I had the opportunity to meet the trio of new Wranglers- Kelly, and freshman Josh Wilson as well as Chris Haney. In speaking to Haney for about five minutes it left me wondering if he was too nice to be a competitive baseball player.The host family that this young man stays with is in for a treat!

Game two started at 4:10 p.m. and while the former Wranglers shined in Game 1, two of the future players were outstanding in the night cap.

Kelly pushed his on base streak to five straight when the left fielder laced a 2-run triple in the second and followed it with a second triple to the gap in the fourth inning.Kelly added a double leading off the sixth (7 straight) before the Red Raiders finally retired the junior. I was fortunate enough to meet Clay's Aunt and Uncle during the day and informed them we would keep their nephew out of harms way this summer.

Josh Wilson didn't see action during the games but the 5'9 Haney entered the second game with DBU trailing 8-6 in the fifth inning. Willie Rueda was at the plate when Haney threw to first and appeared to pick-off Chris Hall. Haney showed off his move to first quite a few times during his outing. Rueda was fooled on the next pitch but picked up a bloop double to score Hall but then Hainey simply shut the door.

There was no gun in sight but I had to believe Haney was throwing in the high 80's or low 90's. The final line for his efforts went as follows- 3.2 Innings, 1 hit,1 walk, 1K- 58 pitches/36 strikes! Luray skipper Mike BoCock will be happy to welcome this young man to Page County.
DBU left the tying runner on base in the eighth inning and dropped the game 9-8 despite outhitting the home team 15 to 9.

Notes from the day- I had the pleasure of spending a big part of the day visiting with the soon to be Mrs. Wayne Dowling (Lacey),I would also have to think that Clay goes from first to third as fast as anyone we will see play in the Valley this season and all 3 Patriots will be good fits back in Luray!

Side note- Saw where Randy Johnson picked-up career win #287 tonight for the D-Backs. I sure hope his back can hold up for him to make a run @ 300.

See you back in the Valley!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Greetings from Lubbock, Texas- Let's play two!

The weather forecast for today here in Lubbock is 90 and sunny and it is time to head over to Texas Tech for the 1:00 p.m. start of the double header between the host Red Raiders and the visiting Dallas Baptist University Patriots.

Texas Tech is coming off a 12-10 victory yesterday over #8 Oklahome State in Stillwater despite spotting OSU an 8-0 lead. TT (22-28) will look to payback the team
from DBU (33-16) for a 16-7 road loss last week back in Dallas.

The tie into the Valley League for me today is the five former or future Luray Wranglers that play for DBU, including lefty reliever senior Wayne Dowling (Loveland,Co.).

Dowling spent the second half of the season with our family in Luray last year and a made him a promise that I would make a trip to watch him pitch before the season was over. Things got pretty busy with trying to get the promotion off the ground and before you know it the last week of the regular season is here. 1,858 miles was the total for the journey down but a promise is a promise!

Before I head over to the stadium I want to say THANKS to Mr.Leonard @ All Things Valley League for posting the News-Leader story from Saturday. I am working on a top-ten list of why I LOVE the Valley League and I promise you John and his dedication will rank high on that list!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Great Baseball news for the Lloyd Family

I just received some great news from Friend of the Promotion John Llyod. John works for USA-Today and are history goes back a little over two years. John has always been 1st in line whenever we were in need of promo items and has been a backer of Crystal Clear Delivery since the early days.

John has a love for baseball that runs in his family and his son John is pitching in the Big South Conference for Radford University again this season.For the past 3 years John and his family have made the trip from Northern Virginia down I-81 as often as possible to see their son pitch for the Highlanders and the junior had a HUGE week this past week that did not go un-noticed.

The 6'3 lefty was named Big South pitcher of the week for his efforts and I have made an attempt to include the link to the story for everyone to see! Congrats to both John Sr. and John Jr. (Westfield High- Oak Hill, Va.).

Lets see if I can get the link correct... click here!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Taking to the Road with Dallas Baptist University

It is not un-common in the Valley League for certain teams to build strong relationships with certain schools over the years. The Luray Wranglers have a pair of schools they rely on to fill their roster- one old one (Miami) and one new one (DBU Patriots). Head Coach Daniel Heefner is nearing the end of his fourth year at the helm of the DBU program and the Patriots (33-16 overall, 16-3 home) are looking for a post season birth.

The team has a Tuesday double header at Texas Tech in Lubbock and a weekend series in San Francisco (3 games) against the USF Dons. The roster has five players with ties to the Wrangler franchise including seniors Wayne Dowling and Andrew Pirtle.

Pirtle (.303 this season)has done the majority of the catching this season and Dowling (2-0,3.49 era, 17 apperances)has been strong coming out of the bullpen. Those two teamed to lead the 2007 Wranglers to a runner-up finish in the VBL last season. The two seniors can't return this year but the visit must of been a positive one as three of their teammates are making the long trip east this season.

Junior outfielder Clay Kelly (.311 in 44 games) will help man the outfield in Luray while freshman Chris Haney (C/RHP) and freshmanJosh Wilson (OF/RHP) will also play a huge part in the sucess of manager Mike BoCock's 2008 team.

Kelly is a left-hander from Austin, Texas while Haney resides in Garland,Texas
and Wilson is from Canton, Texas. After spending the season in the metro plex of Dallas- Fort Worth, we can only hope the new trio won't find Luray too fast for their liking!

Trying to live up to my word and running out of options, I will be making the trek out to Lubbock for the doubleheader in hopes of seeing both the past and the future Wranglers in action. Besides who wants to go to San Fran when you can go to Lubbock?

Our own trek Around The Valley in 12 Days

We are now inside 3 weeks until opening night in Woodstock as well as four other exciting Valley Baseball Parks.We will open the season with one of the two cross-county rivalry games as New Market travels 19 miles north to battle the River Bandits for early Shenandoah County bragging rights! Staunton- Waynesboro offer up the other County Battle (Augusta County) but the league is not short on great rivals.

Luray @ New Market (stop 7-June 6th) is always a great game anytime one of those teams crosses the Gap on US-211 and Winchester- Front Royal proved to be quite the match-up last season as the neighbors that share US-522 always look forward to facing
each other.

Here is the current (rain pending) list of stops we plan to make to complete the
cycle:

Saturday- May 31st- Woodstock home opener vs. New Market (70 miles)
Sunday- June 1st- Waynesboro home opener vs. Harrisonburg (114 miles)
Monday- June 2nd- Fauquier 2nd home game vs. Luray (88 miles)
Tuesday- June 3rd- Front Royal 2nd home game vs. Waynesboro (52 miles)
Wednesday- June 4th- Covington 2nd home game vs. New Market (265 miles)
Thursday- June 5th- Winchester 3rd home game vs. Harrisonburg (102 miles)
Friday- June 6th- New Market 3rd home game vs. Luray (30 miles)
Saturday- June 7th- Harrisonburg 5th home game vs. Haymarket ( 70 miles)
Sunday- June 8th- Haymarket 4th home game vs. Luray ( 116 miles)
Monday- June 9th- 1st League Day Off- pending make-up games
Tuesday- June 10th- Luray 4th home game vs. Staunton ( 3 miles !)
Wednesday- June 11th- Staunton 5th home game vs. New Market ( 122 miles)

Grand Total of un-offical miles=
1,032 miles...
Cost of gasoline-$165.00
The chance to see 11 great games in 11 neat settings- PRICELESS !!!!!

Today's reason Baseball is the greatest game on earth!

Luke Carlin is a catcher from near-by Silver Springs, Maryland and boy will he have
a story to tell his grandchildren. The 27 year old from Northeastern University made his major league debut Saturday night in San Diego. Carlin struggled at the plate against the Rockies (0-3, 3 K's) but shined behind the dish as the rookie started the night calling pitches for future hall-of-famer Greg Maddux (350 victories).

Maddux scattered three singles over six innings before turning the ball over to the Padres bullpen.Clay Meredith and Heath Bell covered the seventh and eighth before the all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman (530 saves) came in to close the 3-2 win out for the home team.

Carlin was at a loss for words to describe catching two of the greatest pitchers of all time on his first night in the bigs.

"I don't know what to say.It's kind of like all my dreams came true at once, I guess," Carlin said. "It was a privilege,an honor.I'm pretty much speechless."

Twenty years from now Carlin will have a story to tell and then some!