Saturday, August 30, 2008

A VBL Gathering down in Fishersville for Friday Night Lights

One of the topics that sits out there with the VBL is concerned is what happens to many of the people with ties to the league during the fall. Last night down at the Stuarts Draft @ Woodrow Wilson Memorial football game there were quite a few VBL folks visible.

Chip Crabill (Generals Radio) and I (ATV-60) teamed up to do the radio broadcast for ESPN-1240 with Mr. Sean Youngberg (Generals Radio) operating the board for the station. Two booths down from us stood Mr. Dave Norman (Voice of the Turks) and Skipper Mike Bocock (Luray). They teamed up to do the television broadcast that will air on Saturday afternoon and I shared a laugh with the pair when I said it was special to see a Turk working so close to a Wrangler!

Skip was kind enough to come down our way for the half time show and we were able to do 5 minutes of VBL baseball in the middle of the football game. Bocock is always fun to mix some high school football and baseball talk together with. The two of us where able to do the same last season when we worked the same game but this time we had an extra topic- His VBL Championship and #4 ranking in the country.

The sixth person with ties to the VBL was the one working the hardest of the group as Waynesboro Derrick McDaniel is the head coach at Wilson Memorial and his 2008 squad was playing their home opener against an explosive group of Cougars last night. After the game we were able to catch up with G-S-G-Mike and drop off the six Waynesboro Generals Loopsters Jackets that Mike is kind enough to distribute for us.

My older sister Cathy was in town from Knoxville and she went along for the ride that included a quick stop at Bob and Teresa's car dealership in Harrisonburg. The Wease family is in Richmond this week-end for their daughters wedding so we missed them but we were able to drop off the 18 Loopsters jackets the Turks earned this summer.

Daniel has now finished the jackets for Waynesboro (6), Staunton (2), Harrisonburg (18) and Haymarket (3) to give us 29 in the books and 23 left to go. Luray (12), Winchester (3), New Market (5) and Front Royal (3) remain but I promise you that he is still hard at work!

Time to go and deliver some Post but I will try and recap the night some more later and I hope all went well for the Wease family with their big day...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Checking in with the Strasburg Rams Volleyball Program- Rams claim road win 3-1 @ Page County

By: Scoop Carter
Crystal Clear News

SHENANDOAH- The Strasburg Rams were able to re-group after dropping game three to the host Page County Panthers to capture a 3-1 (25-22, 25-11, 19-25, 25-18) victory in non-district volleyball action Thursday Night.

Strasburg (2-1) edged the host team 25-22 in game one as the two teams traded points throughout the opener. Both squads are trying to find a comfort level on the floor after being hit hard by graduation in 2007-2008. The Rams graduated seven members of their State Championship team, including team leaders Katie Baker and Kaitlin Smoot. Head Coach Suzanne Mathias was able to welcome back 5 players from last year that will form the nucleus of this years team.

"We are a very young team as we start the season," Mathias said. "They are working hard everyday and playing with a great deal of enthusiasm. We lost 7 seniors that we have to replace with 7 new faces and we to build a trust level out there on the court."

Strasburg looked to rebound from a loss earlier in the week at Class AA Sherando and appeared to find a comfort zone in the second game of the match. Returning senior Bethany Doman led the attack from both the service line and the net as the Rams cruised to a convincing 25-11 victory to make the match 2-0. Sophomore Lauren Agnew collected a number of her 10 kills for the night to join Doman in showing the way.

"Our girls are still learning the game, learning about being a family and learning about how that relates to playing volleyball as a team," added Mathias. "The things we accomplished last year as a team didn't happen over night."

Lady Panther head coach Alan Knight is also trying to guide a team that is playing without their four year team leader, Ashley Henry. You have to go back to the 2004 season for the last time PCHS played volleyball without Henry in the rotation. Knight does have 6 seniors on this seasons squad as Lindsey MacLeod, Lacey MacLeod, Rachel Breeden, Anissa Price, Niki Zwanzig and Liz Bowles will each look to step up their game in hopes of filling the void.

Trailing 2-0, the Lady Panthers opened the third game by once again trading points with the Bull Run District opponent. The score was 19-17 when Price stepped up with a "placed" kill and then both Zwanzig and junior Britney Wolfe added kills to lead PCHS to a 6-2 run to close out game 3 by a score of 25-19.

"Our team works very hard out there on the floor and they do a great job of listening," Knight said. "We just need to work on the execution of the plays. We don't have a dominant finisher out there so we will need to do a number of things really well to be successful."

PCHS (2-2) kept pushing in game four and pulled within 16-14 on kill from Price but on the very next point returning junior Jenna Smoot met Price at the net to record her ninth block of the match to turn the momentum back to the Rams. Three kills from Strasburg pushed the lead out to 20-16 with returning junior Stephanie Conde leading the attack. Page rebounded on the strength of a service Ace from Meghan Gum to pull to within 20-18 before Strasburg ran off the final five points of the match for a 25-18 closing victory.

Notes: After the match I was able to visit with PCHS Coach Alan Knight and those notes are in a separate story that I invite you to read on this site.

The visit with Suzanne Mathais and Jennifer Mason was my first since presenting the school with our VB book that followed the teams efforts to the State Championship. They had a third coach on the bench with them and I was excited for the program when I heard about her...

New Coach - Jan Bane
Title - Head Coach of the brand new Freshman VB team
Ties to Strasburg- Played under former Head Coach Judith Smoot
Daughter Alyssa Bane plays on current JV squad

"The addition of a Freshman team will be a tremendous help for our program down the road," Mathias noted. "Once the team gets established it will give 10 of our players more time on the court. Our next goal is to add a middle school team so we can reach them even sooner."

Coach Mason's junior varsity team once again looked impressive in their 2-0 victory but she knows there is room for improvement.

"We are facing the same thing with the junior varsity that we are with the varsity in that we are very young" Mason said. "There is also the fact that we have ten players that would be playing JV that are playing on the freshman team."

The magical season that the community of Strasburg experienced last year truly was a "Season of a Lifetime" as it told the story of seven remarkable young ladies that spend their entire K-12 together and finished it off with a 28-0 season. The key for this years squad will be to find its own identity and grow together and with Mathias there to lead the way I like their chances...

Strasburg notes : Lauren Agnew (10 kills), Jenna Smoot (6 kills, 9 blocks), Stephanie Conde (6 kills, 2 blocks), Jaclyn Ayers (5 kills, 6 blocks)

PCHS Notes - Bill Meade of the Page News & Courier was at the match and you will want to check out his story in the PN & C next Wednesday...

Hometown Hero Series : Page County High School's Alan Knight

As far as Coaching Legends go these days, PCHS's Alan Knight is about the best kept secret around in the state of Virginia. The fact that Alan is a neighbor of mine here in Page County made me want to take a closer look at his amazing career with the Panthers. The 1975 PCHS graduate returned to his Alma mater after graduating from Eastern Mennonite College (which has since become EMU) back in the fall of 1981.
You have to remember that my older brother Wayne has spent his entire adult life in the teaching/ school administration industry so I truly respect that Knight has been on the job done at PCHS for what is now his 28TH season. For almost 3 decades Knight has led the Panthers softball and volleyball programs for the school that campus sits just north of the town of Shenandoah on US-340.

28 seasons of coaching two sports full time plus helping out where needed in other areas as well. Knight mentioned spending some time in charge of 8TH grade basketball and the golf team during his tenure at the school. Last night was my first time inside the gym of PCHS and I am not quite sure how that was possible. I have lived here for a few years now and covered various sporting events that involved the Panthers but not once were they playing at home until last night.

I am not sure I was technically covering their match last night as much as I was trying to spend some time with both Knight and Strasburg Rams head coach Suzanne Mathias while watching their respective teams battle on the court. I had bumped into Alan a number of times during the past school year and always talked about wanting to tell part of his amazing story. The bonus reason for the story being amazing is his own lack of desire to have his story told.

"When we talked last down at Christopher Newport (VHSCA ALL-Star Games) you asked me about the number of wins in each sport and I honestly don't know the answer to that question," Knight said. "It has never been about wins and losses or about me, it has always been about the kids."

Coach spent about 30 minutes talking with me about his programs following their 4TH match of the season Thursday night. One of the first things you will notice in the Panther gym is the four VOLLEYBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP banners that hang from the rafters. The years were 1986,1989,1990 & 1991 with the three straight titles still being in the record books for streaks. Four times in a six year run, the volleyball season ended with Knight and his Panthers bringing home the trophy.

During his time at PCHS Knight has seen the game go through a number of changes. The two biggest were the time of the year they play and the other being when the high school switched over to scoring on every point versus only on serve. The teams were competing in the Winter time in direct competition with basketball before making the move to the fall slot.

Knight made the trip down to the Hampton Roads area this summer to be with two of his former athletes as they competed in the 37TH Annual All-Star games. Ashley Henry (Volleyball) and Megan Viafora (Softball) were both voted to compete in this past seasons East-West competition for the Class of 2008. These two ladies are just the most recent student-athletes to have outstanding varsity careers at PCHS under Knight.

Henry spent four seasons patrolling the volleyball court for Knight and during that span went from the 2005 Most Improved Player to finishing her career as a 2008 All-State Honorable Mention. Henry led an over-achieving Panther squad that advanced into the post season last year before being eliminated by Strasburg. Henry also starred on the basketball court for the Lady Panthers while competing for the track team as well.

Henry was not the lone stand out that just finished competing for Knight and his Panthers. Viafora also finished her career with a trip down to the All-Star competition for her efforts on Knight's 2008 Softball team. Viafora collected 1ST team Shenandoah District spots in each of the past four seasons for her softball efforts. Like Henry, she also competed on the basketball court and ran Cross Country for the Panthers while at PCHS.

Championship banners hanging in the gym and a long list of special athletes he has helped a long the way, I had to ask if there were any defining moments during his stay at PCHS?

"There have been simply too many teams and too many special student-athletes for me to try and select a few," Knight noted. " I can honestly say that coaching has been very kind to me over the years here at Page."

This seasons VB team looks quite a bit like the 2007 squad, minus the efforts of Henry. They play aggressive and appear to listen to Knight without question in their efforts to improve. Once again the team has a limited amount of height in a sport where height is often king. The Lady Panthers will need to look for ways to out hustle the opposition in 2008 as the tallest player once again is listed at 5'7.

2008 Roster: 2008
#3- Brittney Wolfe 5'4 Junior
#4-Lindsey MacLeod 5'6 Senior
#6-Courtney Bickers 5'7 Junior
#10-Lacey MacLeod 5'6 Senior
#11-Danni Short 5'3 Sophomore
#12-Rachel Breeden 5'2 Senior
#14-Tiffany Aleshire 5'7 Sophomore
#15-Anissa Price 5'6 Senior
#20-Niki Zwanzig 5'7 Senior
#22-Liz Bowles 5'7 Senior
#24-Kori Jenkins 5'5 Sophomore


Remaining Home Matches :

1. vs. William Monroe 9/2
2. vs. Rappahannock 9/4
3.vs. Luray 9/25
4.vs. Eastern Mennonite 10/6
5.vs. Riverheads 10/7
6.vs. Buffalo Gap 10/9
7.vs. Wilson Memorial 10/16
8.vs. Stonewall Jackson 10/21 - Senior Night

Local road games: 9/18 @ Rappahannock Conty , 10/2 @ Stonewall , 10/14 @ Luray


The Lady Panthers stand at 2-2 following the Thursday match vs. Strasburg as Knight prepares his team for another exciting season of play in the Class A Shenandoah District.

"Wilson Memorial should be the team to beat this season in the district but there a number of good teams that we will be facing," Knight added. "Our team works hard and they are very coach able and we should continue to improve as the season moves forward."

The team does once again to be very responsive to their long time coach who's effort might not be fully appreciated until he is no longer working the sidelines at PCHS. Entering his 28TH season of double duty, I had to ask Coach if the end is in sight?

"I will coach here until I don't enjoy coaching anymore," Knight stated. "I have had a number of people tell me that I will be coaching forever but I am taking it one year at a time from here out."

After watching Knight lead his young team on the court Thursday night I have to believe we are going to have him around for a couple more seasons...

Can't beat the price of $4.00 for a ticket to a Lady Panthers home match so take a look at the schedule listed above and come out a watch Knight continue to lead by example as he coaches his next group of student-athletes...

I would love to hear from any former athletes that has a Coach Knight story that they would like to share!

Having some fun with Page News & Courier's Randy Arrington & Bill Meade

Bill Meade was kind enough to invite me to join the group of area sports fans that pick the winners of a combination of area high school, college and NFL games each week for our Page News and Courier. Bill is the Sports Editor at our counties weekly paper and Randy is the Editor and Chief. Bill let me know that Randy is the defending champ and is looking to repeat this season.

The "Pigskin Picks" appear in the Sports section of the Page News & Courier each week accompanied by our previous results. There are a Panel of 6 Prognosticators each week and Bill finds one Guest Picker as well. The opening guest is Shawn Seal and Bill, Randy and I are joined for the year by Kevin Bush, Page Meadows and Nerissa Viafora.

I had to pause for a moment there as I looked at the name Nerissa Viafora. I was wondering why that named looked so familiar to me. It took a minute but then I remembered why- I was working on a story about Coach Alan Knight of PCHS and Mrs. Viafora's daughter (Megan) was a 2008 PCHS grad that played / starred for Knight's softball team...

There are no NFL games this week so there are more NCAA pics to go with the four high school games. If you want to play a long at home...

High School:

Covington @ Page County
Stuarts Draft @ Wilson- Memorial
Central @ Stonewall Jackson
Harrisonburg @ Handley

NCAA:
Va Tech @ East Carolina
So Cal @ UVA
James Madison @ Duke
Alabama @ Clemson
Illinois @ Missouri
Kentucky @ Louisville
Tennessee @ UCLA
Colorodo State @ Colorodo

Friday Night Lights with ESPN-1240 WTON... Taking the show to Wilson Memorial High School

It is game day for the Augusta County High School Game of the Week on ESPN radio and this weeks contest will have a real VBL feel to it as we head down to Fishersville for a match-up between visiting Stuarts Draft and host Wilson Memorial High School.

The head football coach for the Green Hornets is none other than Mr. Derrick McDaniel of the Waynesboro Generals coaching staff. McDaniel spends his summers along side of Lawrence "Big Picture" Nesselrodt as the pair team up to guide Jim Critzer's baseball team in the months of May, June, July and August.

Chip Crabill and I will go on the air with the tail gate show at 6:30 PM and the contest is slated to start at 7:30 PM. McDaniel's team competes in the Class A Shenandoah District and this game will be their season opener. Stuarts Draft plays in the Class AA Southern Valley District and is guided by head coach Rod Bowers. The Cougars dropped a thrilling 35-28 contest to Broadway in their home opener last week and will be looking to rebound tonight against the Green Hornets.

The stadium at Wilson Memorial is the lone Augusta County facility that we didn't call a game at last season so I will be making my first trip down to 189 Hornets Road. There will hopefully be one more small piece of VBL/ Around the Valley in 60 Days business to take care of Friday night.

Daniel has finished the six Generals jackets for their Loopsters and I hope to be able to pass out a few of them while down in the area. Next up for Daniel will be his attempt to air brush 18 Turks logos on Teresa's fans jackets. Have you ever noticed the amount of detail in those Turks?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Out with the Summer of 2008 - In with the Fall of 2009

Wow! That Teresa Wease is a special lady...

After finishing my story on Blaine Brown and Mike Murphy I went to see if there were any comments to post and I found one from Mrs. Turks! I would be lying if I didn't say that finding comments waiting in the inbox from readers is the coolest part of this site.

I have had quite a few people ask about the Summer of 2009 but my answer was I needed to continue forward to the end of 2008 first. My thoughts the other day served as a recap for the 2008 VBL Season and just as you take your car in for a State Inspection when the sticker says to... The garage gave us a new sticker but...

Now that we can close the books on the season (I wasn't willing to do that until G-S-G-Mike had the time to send in his final thoughts), I think it is safe to look forward to the rest of the off season and what the Summer of 2009 might hold. I through a great deal of things at the wall this past year in an effort to see what would work.

That list included Owner (L), Board of Directors (L), PA guy (L), Web-Cast (NM), Around The Valley in 60 Days promotion, 1000's of pics, a park every night, writing gamers and creating this site/blog. Toss in calling a game with/for the Generals on ESPN 1240 and you get the idea.The only way to see what people really enjoyed and what should be brought back is to ask for some serious feedback from the readers.

The only things that I have scratched off the list for possible 2009 events is Owner and attending a game for 67 straight days. The role of minority owner is just too too serious for someone to have as a hobby! I refer to the 67 straight days as a STUNT, just like a person living on top of a billboard out in Los Angles. The need for exposure led me to the act of craziness that we will call the Summer of'08.

That still leaves a number of topics left on the table I am looking for other serious folks to talk about what worked and what didn't. There is a glaring need to continue to get the word out to all of the people connected to the VBL. I knew once the first pitch was thrown the owners would be busy but even I learned what kind of level of busy that is. Any plans involving the team owners should be taking place right now.

I consider the VBL to be a well kept secret on a number of fronts and WE need to change this in all ways possible. I have had a conversation with Dave Biery this past week and hope to start to lay out a game plan on things that could/can be done to help spread the word about our great league. I know that Melissa Dodge over in New Market has an idea or two in her mind that might be fun to take a look at in the next little while.

Looking for feedback from anyone still checking in about their thoughts on plans for the 2009 VBL Season...

Taking a trip down Rebels Memory Lane while watching Greg Maddux pitch in the Nats new park!

My youngest son Christopher and I made the drive up to Nationals Park tonight to see Greg Maddux take a third shot at tying Roger Clemens for the #8 spot All-Time in MLB victories at 354. Once again Maddux came up a bit short as two UN-earned runs allowed the Nats to squeak out a 5-4 victory. The Dodgers have now dropped 6 straight games away from LA as Joe Torre and company were swept in a four game series at Citizens Bank Ball Park up in Phili before two straight losses to Washington.

It was my first trip up to the new park and now the number of teams in MLB that I have seen play in multiple home parks is up to nine. It is always fun for me to get to watch Maddux pitch, even we he doesn't get the "W" and this was the first time that Chris had been there with me. I was listening to a trio of educated fans sitting directly behind me and I turned around when I heard one of them say we were watching the greatest pitcher of our generation!

If you have been following for most of the year then you know that I love to talk about my baseball hero with others that appreciate his talents. When I turned around to speak I noticed the young man on my far left was wearing a Maryland Terps wind breaker. I put two and two together with Terps gear and knowledge of the game that this young man might know Coach Brown up at College Park.

Anyone with ties to New Market will remember skipper Blaine Brown and the remarkable run that the Rebels made during his stay in town. Brown was last the manager for Bruce Alger in the 2006 season, which was my first working with the club. Every game that I went to interview Brown I was greeted with a smile whether the Rebels had won or lost that night. The fact that the Rebels went an amazing 32-10 during the regular season might of helped the situation but it was obvious to me that Brown was a players manager.

We will need to check with John Leonard in a few years to see how many of those Rebels will one day play in the majors. Two players from the 2008 edition were 3RD year returnees as Dale Brannon and Kevin Dietrich both were role players on that dominating team. I wanted to go back in time to Thursday July 6, 2006 when I covered my first game with Coach Brown at Rebel Park...

New Market (20-5) 3, Staunton Braves (12-14) 2

Closer Brandon "Cotton" Dickson, Darren Caldwell and starter Mark Brackman combined on the victory. Brackman came in with 3-0 record and 0.70 ERA. Cotton picked up his 9TH save that night and the Rebels would go on to win 12 of their final 17 hading into the playoffs. Dan Zeffiro was another one of the arms on the staff and some of the big mashers were Gerard Haran, Chris Beck and Jon Geiger. The speed on the team came from Joey Butler, Bryan Shaughnessy and a host of others.

Brown played all of the percentages every night and not only was his club successful but highly entertaining to watch. Brown and his team combined solid starting pitching, sound defense, clutch hitting and swiping a few bases before giving the ball over to Cotton for the save. The 2008 Rebels skipper Nolan Neiman was the top assistant to Brown for the 2006 campaign.

Let's head back to the conversation at the Nats park where it turned out this young man, Mike Murphy, did indeed know Coach and that led to another long conversation. Mike was able to tell me a little bit about Coach and the success of the 2006 Rebels. It would appear that Brown had taken the time to mention that special group of players that spent the VBL Summer of 2006 in New Market to some of the current Terps players.

Murphy was also pointed out that Brown remains a players coach that is approachable to the players on the roster. Brown will be returning to assist head coach Terry Rupp once the 2009 ACC season gets under way. The final comment from Murphy about Brown concerned his obsession with Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk as in Kansas University.

"He is Kansas this and Kansas that, whether it is football or basketball," Murphy said. "I wonder where it all began?".

I can answer that one as Brown is a native of Richmond, Kansas and anyone living in a state in the Midwest without professional sports usually turns out a die-hard fan of the big time college program in that state. This works for Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and a few others that fall into that same category.

I was able to capture a picture of Murphy and his two friends at the game and I will post that at some point when Rebecca gets around to teaching me how! She was going to the game with us but wasn't feeling well when it was time for her to leave UVA.

When we made it back home I went to do a little research on Mike and his baseball career after hearing he spent this past summer playing for the Orleans Cardinals of the Cape Cod League. It turns out this young man is a pretty solid baseball player for the Terps as well as some what of a celebrity. One of his friends mentioned that Mike had played the previous summer up in the Alaskan League and during one of those games he spent the night wired for sound.

After being miked up they asked Mike to be colorful for the special and he was happy to oblige them. They were telling me that it will appear on a HBO special at some point and I will try and keep my eye out for that one...

The profile on Murphy tells us that he will be a senior this season for Maryland and that he played his high school baseball at Georgetown Prep for the Little Hoyas. Check out what the next paragraph says:

"Arguably the best hitter on the team...emerged as one of the best power hitters in the ACC in 2007...knack for driving in key runs...mixes power with good speed...reliable presence in the middle of thew lineup, starting every game (56 of them)...top pro prospect on the team...excellent student...

I will add at that he is a well spoken and incredibly nice young man that for a night helped me watch Maddux pitch and talk about Coach Brown and the 2006 Rebels...

Now here is a challenge to any and all New Market fans from 2006- Name me another player or two from that roster....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Now with G-S-G Mike's final thoughts in the books...Exit stage Left

I wanted to wait until Mike had sent me his recap on the Generals before closing the shop down. Mike has been a huge part of what we tried to do here this summer and we are grateful for all of his help!


To say that it has been quite a ride would be an under statement! A year is in the books from when I first approached VBL President Dave Biery with an idea that I thought would be fun for the teams and the fans of the league. The first ownership group meeting was held last Thursday down in Harrisonburg and this marks the end of one season and the beginning of the next for each of the now 12 clubs.


They can actually begin to sign players here in a few days (September 1ST) and work on securing their coaching staffs for the Summer of 2009. We still have a little UN-finished business as Daniel is hard at work on the remaining jackets but I don't think any of it qualifies as news worthy. I have been keeping up with John Leonard's daily work and still smile every time I notice Brad Ziegler have a good night in the bigs. Last night Ziegler notched his 5TH save in 5 attempts! You can follow John's work at http://allthingsvalleyleague.typepad.com/ .


We will also follow through with the 10 passes that were awarded as prizes for the 2009 VBL season. VBL Secretary Linda Keen is in charge of the passes and I know that she will make sure that each of the 10 winners end up with their pass by opening day of next season.


The VBL will have to 6 team leagues next season and will go in the books as a North and a South division. The North will consist of Haymarket, Fauquier, Winchester, Front Royal , Woodstock and Luray. The South will include New Market, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro, Staunton, Rockbridge and Covington.


The remainder of the details will be announced as they are voted on by the group. The next meeting will be in September and I would have to think that the remainder of the details will be hammered out then. As I had mentioned earlier, I have stepped away from the opportunity of owning a small share of our club here in Luray. I mention this here because this also removes me from the room when the teams get together so it will limit the information I would have in the future.


I will say that I have doubled the amount of respect I have for the efforts of our group here in Luray, if not tripled. The deck is somewhat stacked against Bill Turner and Company but they keep on moving forward in their efforts to field a quality VBL team here in our little town. I say "our" little town because at the end of the day, this is where I call home and where I make my living.


It has been my hopes for a few years now to find a way to give something back to the folks here in town. That is what led me to answer the ad in the Northern Virginia Daily three years ago. I don't consider myself a big time writer but I do think I can tell a story if there is one to be told. There was just one problem, the NVD doesn't cover events in Page County. I was confused at first because they sell the paper here (We delivered it for 8 months as well) but we are on the outer edge of their coverage area. I knew this was the case with the Daily News Record (Harrisonburg) but I didn't know about the NVD until later.


The two plus years of covering sports in Shenandoah County and Fredrick County was a great deal of fun and it led me to some special people. The list includes Suzanne Mathias (Strasburg Volleyball), Roger Wilkins (Woodstock) and Jeff Burner at Stonewall Jackson. You can't forget Bruce Alger of the New Market Rebels. I ended up spending time with Bruce because once again the NVD didn't cover Wrangler home games.


With the busy nights running up and down I-81 during the summer my number of nights spent at Bulldog Field were limited my first three summers here. It wasn't until late last season that I came over to handle a few web-casts down the stretch for Bill that I became more knowledgeable of our home town team. Once the Rebels didn't make the playoffs last season I was able to call each of the playoff games for the Wranglers. Of course the season ended with the Game 4 loss to Waynesboro at Bulldog Field but it was quite a ride while it lasted.


It was during game #1 of the finals down at Kate Collins that I first approached the "Commish" about the idea of Around The Valley in 60 Days. I spend my free time in search of ways to try and make my part of the world a better place.



I wish I had my oldest daughters dedication and drive that took her to the Amazon this past Summer as her group from Liberty University searched for lives to change. There is a proud parent, then there is my appreciation for the things Sabrena is trying to accomplish in life.


I don't openly talk about my own beliefs to folks but instead search for ways to give back. We have been blessed in life over the years and at the same time we have been fortunate enough to experience some things that others haven't. We had the makings of a perfect storm going with the idea as we could support the Wranglers, support the VBL and invite folks to our little town for a night at Bulldog Field.


The idea took off a little slow as most people were either too busy with their own day-to-day while others were trying to figure out what I was selling or what the angle was. I took the block (200 in our case) of free tickets that a sponsor gets from the Wranglers and went to driving all over the state in hopes of giving them away. The mission- get people excited about the VBL and then get them to come to our little town for a night to try and make some new friends.


Go out and meet folks that have a story to tell or a story that needs to be told. Just continue to search for the GOOD and side step all of the other. Maybe help a parent and child become closer over the summer or help someone get through a tough time. This site was never part of the plan but it became necessary when we couldn't get the newspapers across the VBL to help spread the word in the manner I had hoped.


As the summer went on I think the site became bigger than the promotion to most folks. This came as a pleasant surprise and I shifted to trying to search out the GOOD in folks and tell that part of the story. The people who gave so freely of their time and I didn't have to look very far as Donnie & Sue Middleton here in Luray are perfect examples of all that is right inside of the VBL!


Donnie turned 70 one night this summer and I only know this because I said Happy Birthday to him over the PA system down at Bulldog Field. How did Donnie and Sue celebrate the big day? Sue sold tickets at the front gate while Donnie worked the 50-50 during the game and then cleaned-up after the game. What an amazing couple...


But the VBL is far, far more of a business than I ever expected. I have been in Newspaper Circulation for 30 years now and it has taken me all over the country. The stops have included Seattle, Portland, Dallas and Jacksonville among others. I consider myself pretty skilled at what I do but there is little fun in the work. The hours are crummy and we work 365 days a year and it is very seldom that you speak to anyone except when something has went wrong. The national average for success that we are judged on in our business is 2 per 1,000.

That breaks down to if a customer gets a newspaper everyday at their house for 3 years (1,095 days) and they only have an issue twice then you are average! Could you imagine that figure translated to sports? The long hours and constant pressure of the job makes you want to find something FUN and relaxing to do with your spare time.


What is fun for me and makes the Valley Baseball League fun is New Market vs. Luray. Apologies to everyone else but Rebels-Wranglers is what makes the day for me. It is the Hatfields and McCoys in some fronts or good guys vs. bad guys in others. It is twice the fun for me because I have serious ties to both sides as I do business on both sides of the mountain as does Bill Turner and Mo Weber.


They (Bruce and Company) do a great number of things top of the charts on that side of the mountain, including Bruce himself doing the PA for his team. Mrs. Tacey Hawkins singing the National Anthem each night and they also have the best game day program in the VBL. I can honestly say that every night I handle the PA duties at Bulldog Field I am trying to measure up to Mr.Alger and when we (Rebecca & I) tackled the Wrangler programs this year we used the Rebels program as a starting point.

The games are fun because there is a genuine interest in the two towns to be better than the other one. Even if the players don't pick up on it each summer, the residents of the towns do. One of the loudest cheers I heard all season at Rebel Park was when Bruce announced the Wranglers were losing down at Waynesboro. The fans at both parks are great and when it comes time to cross the New Market Pass for the road game they cover the 12 miles of US-211 in a hurry.


It is the Wranglers vs. the Rebels and there is a cast of characters on both sides every night that the teams play each other. Melissa Dodge and her cow bell, Front Row Fred and the rest of the Rebels faithful. Tony Mowat and Dallas Alkire on the Web-Cast letting me have Bill come up on the broadcast for visits because it is all good stuff. If the league would let the two teams play every other night I would be there because it is just that special!


Now it is time to get back to the new format that the VBL is going to follow next season with the schedule. I have stayed away from having a position on things or using this site as a platform but this plan saddens me. Luray to the North and New Market and Harrisonburg to the South has the Wranglers getting just 1 home visit from both of these teams. There will be a more bonus game that each home team will pick up as a "rival " game but this creates a problem for the teams in the middle of the territory of the VBL.


Stu up in Woodstock will be losing his season series with his Shenandoah County rivals in New Market as well. The trophy the two teams compete for each season will not have the same meaning if it is a two game series will it? The number of leagues competing for the top level college players is continuing to rise with the 15 team Sierra League out West just one of the latest. The VBL doesn't just compete with the Cape Cod league for players and recognition but a wide variety of clusters of teams across the U.S.


This next few years are incredibly important to the overall health of the VBL and it is time to come up with a game plan. Most game plans include protecting your strentghs and focusing on your flaws. The new format doesn't hurt the teams to the North or the teams to the South, in fact in helps them. Rockbridge vs. Covington and Waynesboro vs. Staunton are classic match-ups that will now be played more often, Winchester vs. Front Royal and Haymarket vs. Fauquier both get more shots at adding to their fan bases. We are up against rising costs of travel for both fans and teams plus more and more teams competing for the same players so we need to be smarter than ever.

Earlier this morning I was sharing my thoughts (I want to add that these are MY thoughts and do not reflect anyone in the town or organization) with Bill Meade. Bill is the Sports Editor of the Page News and Courier and when I was done talking Bill said back- It is the natural place to draw the line. This is an answer that I have heard to often as of late and I replied back with this...




Let's take a look at the National Football League and asked ourselves what is the best rivalry in the league? The majority of the fans would say Cowboys- Redskins and that would include fans of other teams as well. So what would happen if the NFL Commish Roger Goodell pulls out the Rand McNally Atlas answer on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Skins owner Daniel Snyder.





Fast forward to the conference call- "Dan, Jerry- I have some bad news for you two. After further review in the US Atlas we have noticed that while the Cowboys are in the NFC East on paper, we are going to replace you with the Clevland Browns. Kansas City is going to now play Dallas and Washington will play Clevland.

Now Daniel & Jerry are two of the wealthiest owners in all of professional sports and they would probably threaten to go out and start their own league but we all know that the NFL wouldn't make that type of error in judgement. The number of fans that buy season tickets to both clubs based on getting tics to the "BIG" game alone is pretty high. Indianapolis plays in the NFL South and Kansas City was left in the AFC West to protect the Chiefs-Raiders and Chiefs-Broncos.


Take a look closer to home when the ACC went from 9 teams to 12 teams for the benefit of the football revenue. They didn't take out a book and draw a line down the middle to split the league, they looked at what was best for the group as a whole. I couldn't be happier that the Rockbridge Rapids are in the VBL and now there is an even number of teams. It also creates three pockets of natural rivals.


The South would consist of Waynesboro, Staunton, Rockbridge and Covington. This group is both close in miles and natural rivals.


The second group (Central) is Harrisonburg, New Market, Luray and Woodstock. On a map and in their communities this is a solid four. New Market gets to keep both of their "Trophy" series in tact and Woodstock vs. Luray can continue to grow. The Turks would continue to play both the Rebels and the Wranglers.


The third group (North) of four is Winchester, Front Royal, Haymarket and Fauquier. Once again this group has a pair of natural rivals already in it and then some more than can grow.

The difference for me is that I am concerned with two things and two things only here. The first one is making the games for accessible for the fans of the teams to travel to road games and the ability of Bill Turner and Associates to be able to field a team here in Luray. As I said earlier, when the day is over the Wranglers play in my town and that makes Bill Turner my guy. He might wish otherwise at times because I hold him to a higher level of expectation, the same way a high school coach who has his own son playing for them.

Don't like the idea of a 4-4-4 on paper than it could easily be translated into a 6-6 with the same match-ups being protected. The VBL has operated on a different format for the past three seasons and I know they are anxious to get a schedule out there but I think it is more important to get it right then it is to get it out. I get behind ideas that I can believe in and it will be much harder for me to get excited about the 2009 season if it involves just 1 visit from New Market and 1 visit from Teresa and her Turks.



But that leads us back to the fact that this is a business that is being run here and it is not my money that is being spent to run it. I am not lost to this fact but at the same time I put myself in the shoes of that Redskins ticket holder who would have to make a decision on buying his season ticket package if it came without the Cowboys. Or to put into my Newspaper respective, I recently had a conversation with a long time and favorite customer of mine. He called to cancel his subscription to the Washington Post after 50+ years of reading it daily. The latest price increase was the deciding factor.


It wasn't that he didn't enjoy the paper anymore or couldn't afford the increase or that he thought the Post would changed their mind about the cost of the product for half of the state because of him. Mr. Poole told me not to take it personally and that my service had been great but he told me that a person has to do what they think is right...


Thank you so much to Generals Sign Guy Mike, Mrs. Teresa Wease, Sheli Rush and family, Buck and Jacob Smith, the Parker family of Haymarket, Melissa Dodge, John Galle of the Shenandoah Valley-Herald, Kip Ritenour of the Warren County Sentinel, Bill Meade and Greg Brill for making the Summer of 2008 one I will remember for a long, long time!


THANKS to Mr. John Leonard for the example he sets in life with both his site and his family...


Final THANKS to Bill Turner for continuing to fight the fight to have the VBL here in our special little town...


GOD BLESS...

Monday, August 25, 2008

General Notes from GeneralsSignGuyMike

A General View of 2008
By GeneralsSignGuyMike 

It was one great season for the 2008 Waynesboro Generals, yes they didn't make it two straight VLB Champions but they do have bragging rights on having won three straight division titles and overall best record (87-42-1) in the league dating back to 2006. They had a finishing record of (32-17) tho their regular season record was (30-14) and the 2nd straight season with 30 or more wins in the regular season. Coach Lawrence "Big Picture" Nesselrodt was named for the 3rd straight time Manager of the Year and he deserved that award. The manager of the Fauquier Gators, Paul Koch, did a great job this season with the Gators. Adam Liberatore was named one of the best pitchers this year and he deserves the award, also by far the most improved too. He went 6-1 with a 1.36 ERA going 66 1/3 inn and striking out 58. He was the ace of a super pitching staff that included: Andy Altemus (7 wins), Jake Cowan (5 wins and two of his last 3 starts he pitched over 11 strikeouts in them), Jared Dobbs, Daniel Bradshaw, Jeff Sinkiewicz, and Matt Sokolowski. Daniel Wiltz lead our team in saves with 5 saves and had a great season. Kaleb Fleck joined him with 2 saves and Superfan Chuckie's favorite Pete Vandenbout had 2 saves and 3 huge wins this season too.
 
Now with the hitting and our team MVP and the fans MVP too Brandon "B-Size" Sizemore. What a great season he put up this year and improved from the last. This was his 3rd year with the team and he is truly the heart and soul of the team by what the fans think. We are going to miss him in 2009, unless the Valley League can let him play and say start in the minors when he wants afterwards. Sizemore will never be forgotten by the Generals fans, if we could have a Generals Hall of Fame here, he would be right there near the top of the list and probably most of the fans that have supported the team for a long time. Sizemore's numbers this year were .377 avg, 10 HR, 34 RBI's, 13 doubles and 14 stolen bases in only 31 games that he started and he played in 36 games. Not to mention, he was the only player this year repeating All VLB honors from 2007. For all the fans from the Generals Brandon Sizemore thank you for all the great memories you have brought to us over the past three years.
 
Other players that are worth mentioning that had a great year (1st year with us): Evan Webb (43 RBI's), Gabriel Saade (17 SB), Derek Hamblen (.304 avg), Austin Morgan (.307 avg),  Mark Dvoronzak and Greg Meleski. Our 2nd year players included: Grant Buckner, Chris Enourato, Ryan Adams, and also Shane Ardoin. We hope to see all of you again if possible for your 2nd or 3rd years for the Generals. Thank you for a great season at home with a league best 20-5 record in 2008, and we hope to improve on that and have an even better season come 2009. Can't wait for it to get here.
 
I also have to thank ESPN 1240 and Sean Youngberg for letting me on the broadcast to help out for a few innings back on the Haymarket game. That was a dream come true and so was throwing out the first pitch on the same night. Yes I am the sign guy but also you can call me the stat guy in the crowd too and looking forward to helping out again with that in 2009.
 
A huge thank you and thanks for the memories in 2008 has to go to Jerry Carter. He did a super job going out to a game each day no matter where it was at in the Shenandoah Valley... yes I would love to hear all the gas mileage for what he done going to all the games in the 2008 year, but for what he did in a 11 game stretch along with his daughter Rebecca was amazing. Rebecca does deserve a lot of credit for taking pictures too for the ballgames and along with Jerry talking about the Valley League and sports in general. I must admit both of them are big UVA fans I support that and also good luck to Rebecca at UVA this year GO 'HOOS!
 
I was happy to finally meet up with Jerry Carter on June 1st for the Generals' opening game and the ATV-60 tour. He can tell you what an experience it was, from the 1st inning when we put up 13 runs to the last pitch. As you saw in the previous story about the Generals, they went 11-2 when Jerry was at a game, in the crowd or at the broadcast booth. Great memories for all the games I went to. Seeing all 11 ballparks and having a passport to go with it was something I like and Jerry made it worthwhile getting the ATV-60 word to all the fans at all the ballparks. The Generals Superfans appreciated for what you've done plus us loopsters that did the journey do, too. All 50 Loopsters and dog (Congrats to Diamond) enjoyed the journey and will look forward to see what 2009 holds. I can't speak for all of them but each trip to every game no matter if it was at home or away was fun and each of us can tell tell a story from all 11 parks.
 
Jerry and the Carter family keep up the great work you all do for spreading the word about Valley League Baseball. Looking towards late May 2009 now and just wish it would start all over again tomorrow; it will be here before you now it. I will have more fansigns ready and as promised Jerry a fansign for you and Lawrence. I just might have more creative ideas for 2009. Yes the GeneralsSignGuy did have at last count 7 apperances on WHSV during a game and 1 apperance along with Jerry for spreading the word about ATV-60 and 2 apperances on WVIR-29. I do wanna thank the journalists and cameramen (Damon and Zac from WHSV) and camerawoman, thank you (Lindsay from WVIR) for all the apperances on the sportscast.
 
For all the people that visit here that are UVA fans, GO HOOS and for all the Redskins fans, GO SKINS!
 
But most of all for all the Valley League fans, GO VALLEY LEAGUE!
 
As the song goes "Thanks for the memories until we meet again." It's very true, great memories in 2008 and I hope to see everyone again in 2009.

Rockbridge Rapids name EMU's Mark Mace as skipper...

The Rapids made a splash this week by choosing the clubs first Skipper. Mark Mace is the head baseball coach at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg but his roots are from Rockbridge County. Mace coached high school baseball for a number of years with stops coming in Buena Vista at Parry McClure before taking over the top spot up @ EMU. Mace graduated from EMU back in 1990.

You can read the entire press release over at the Rapids web site by going to http://rockbridgerapids.com/ . Congrats to both Mace and the Rapids on the announcement...

A great week for Sports for ATV-60 here this week...

For the readers that have been here since the beginning you know by now that the VBL is just one of a few things that I am passionate about in the Sports world. This week will prove to be an exciting one as three nights in a row will be filled with events that have a special importance to me.
Let's begin with Wednesday Night at the Nationals game against the Dodgers. While I did complete the cycle of MLB cities I have not been to a game at the Nats new home this season. It seems that I was a bit busy this summer with the VBL. That will change on Wednesday as we head to the stadium to watch Mr. Greg Maddux take a third run at win #354 at 7:30 PM.

It turns out that the game we saw Maddux pitch out in San Diego was his final game this season as a Padre. Maddux is back for a second run as a Dodger with hopes of helping Joe Torre and company catch Randy Johnson and the Arizona D-Backs before the end of the season. The next victory he records will move him into a tie for #8 overall with Roger Clemens. If you're not to busy Wednesday night, how about a MLB game?

Thursday night has my/our adopted Volleyball team, the Strasburg Rams making the trip South to face Alan Knight and his Page County Panthers over in Shenandoah. The seven seniors that we followed through their season last year are gone but Coach Suzanne Mathias also has seven returning players from the 28-0 squad. They will be returning in a couple of weeks to play at Luray High School as well and of course will make the trip over to Rappahannock County later this season as well.

Then on Friday night we will spend week #2 of the High School Football season down at Wilson Memorial for a game between the Green Hornets and the visiting Stuarts Draft Cougars. I team up with Chip Crabill each week on ESPN-1240 WTON to broadcast the Augusta County High School Football Game of the Week. Last week we opened with Fort Defiance traveling to Gypsy Hill Park to play the R.E. Lee Leeman. It is always fun to work a broadcast with Chip and be able to help shine a positive light on some area high school athletes.

This weeks broadcast will have a VBL flavor as the head football coach at Wilson Memorial is none other than Mr. Derek McDaniel. Derek spent his summer working with Lawrence Nesslerodt as the pair team up to run the Waynesboro Generals. The game last week had a touch of VBL to it as I was able to visit with Kay & Boyd Snyder of the Staunton Braves as I made my way up to the press box.

During the season I made reference to the efforts of Hubert Grimm III and his staff over at the Staunton News-Leader in regards to their efforts of covering the VBL. I have to say the one thing they do even better than cover the VBL is cover the 7 public high schools in Augusta County. I was able to have Chris Lassiter on our pre-game show and Chris joked about at 10 years he is still considered the newbe of the group.

Chris took a few minutes out of his time to give a break down on the game and I hope we are able to get Ron, Al or Mr. Cox to do the same down the road. We were also able to spend a few minutes with Mr. Gerald "Buck" Harman before the game and look forward to having him on the air with us down the road this season.

There is a fair amount of cross-over between the VBL and other area high school and college activities, especially on the media side. One of my favorite memories of the last football season was a game we were working at over in Stuarts Draft. There was another broadcast team working the game as well and there was Mike Bocock doing the color for them. At the half, Mike stepped over to where we were and we did a 5 minute segment on VBL baseball!

One of the things we were giving away as prizes Friday night were passes to the Redskins event on Saturday down in Augusta County and that got me thinking about some of the Loopsters that are pretty serious Skins fans. The Dodges and G-S-G-Mike both came to mind for me on this one. I must admit I will pay a bit more attention to the Skins this season because of their new Head Coach. Jim Zorn wearing that cool looking helmet of the expansion Seahawks was just one of the things that made me take that first trip out to the Pacific Northwest...

The football game we are calling is just one of a ton of games being played here in our beautiful Shenandoah Valley this Week-End and I hear that there is a football game being played over at Scott Stadium between this Pete Carroll guy and his USC Trojans. Is this the biggest game in recent history of the Cavilers?

Every year with Labor Day comes my own birthday and I guess this year is no different. Hard to believe it has really been (only) 45 years but as I told my wife all I want for my birthday is for Greg Maddux to win his next two starts so I hope the Nats will co-operate on Wednesday night!

Have a safe and Happy Holiday!!! God Bless...