An Open Letter to VBL Fans

To my readers: Look! I’m un-hiatusing again. And I’m using non-existant words, just like old times. This post is an appeal (in the form of a letter) to supporters of the Valley Baseball League, the longtime love of my small-town summers. It isn’t very polished, but it’s from the heart.

Dear fellow VBL fans,

Following last night’s contest between my own beloved New Market Rebels and the Waynesboro Generals, I feel compelled to address a few issues. Even though the Rebels won the game (and in heart-gripping fashion… excellent job, boys) I was left with a feeling I can best describe as icky.

The sensation was all-the-stronger given the series we just completed against the Staunton Braves. This was an amazing three games. It was intense and fiercely competitive without any bitterness. I am sure that the Braves and their fans were disappointed by the result, but they had nothing whatever to be ashamed of. I would even venture to say that, if you have to lose, you want to lose like that. To be able to hold your head up and shake hands like men when it’s over. I was left with nothing but respect for the 2013 Staunton Braves.

My feelings towards our current opponent will not be so glowing, but I’m writing this before the outcome of this series has been determined so that no one can accuse me of being a sore loser, or a sore winner. Last night’s game was not a friendly one. Although it was embarrassing to see the Generals refuse to shake hands at the conclusion of it, I don’t have much more to say about what happens on the field. I’m not a player or a coach, and they have to be responsible for themselves. What I have to say, I say as a fan, to other fans.

We are not in Los Angeles or New York. We are not (thank the Lord) in Philadelphia. We are in the Shenandoah, my friends, and this is Valley League Baseball. It’s about competition and community. It’s about watching kids play their hearts out, and cheering them on with all of ours. It’s about baseball, pure and simple. So I hope you’ll  forgive me for crying out when I see what ought to be a beautiful summer tradition sullied by contentious behavior.

I’m not trying to pick on any one individual, or even any one franchise. As distasteful as I’ve found certain displays of so-called fandom in others, it is ten times more disappointing when members of my own fan-base think it appropriate to dignify said displays with response/retaliation. I know it’s easy to feel rotten when other people are acting out (I know I sure did), but I would wish to believe that we are better than this. Thus, I implore everyone to give thought to their future actions, and to conduct themselves in a manner more befitting of Valley League fans.

In short: Watch the game. Enjoy it. And support your team without acting like a horse’s patoot.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?

Yours In Sisterly Fandom,
Lizzy

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Saying Goodbye: 2012 New Market Rebels

Another year of New Market Rebels baseball is in the books.

The wide world of baseball these days is so full of Sabermetrics, forecasting, free agency, trades, failed expectations, media craziness, etc., etc., There is so much to distract us from the humanity of the game. People talk about players like they are chess pieces, or cattle. The only thing that matters are results, which I think is really sad. But I am proud to say that this attitude is not the rule in New Market, Virginia. And it is this fact, above all things, that makes baseball here so special to me. We are passionate fans, and want to win, but we will stand behind our team and players no matter what.

Getting knocked out of the playoffs in the first round (and in heart-breaking fashion) by the Waynesboro Generals might not seem like a satisfactory ending, but when you start out 0-8, you have to feel pretty happy to have made it into the postseason at all.
If I know one thing, it’s that this season was memorable, full of enjoyments, and shaped up a lot better than anyone would have thought after the first week. Every baseball season in our little town contains an array of highlights, lowlights, and craziness. 2012 was no exception.
I could go on for a few thousand more words about how great Rebels baseball is, but instead I will just leave y’all with a few photos from this season. Because they’re worth more, and require less effort. Check out the Rebels Facebook page for more.

Legend of the Valley Mo Weber has a word with second year shortstop Matt Ford. Continue reading

Monday Musings: A Hometown Rundown

Note: The following post deals mostly with my beloved New Market Rebels. Unless you are one of a small number connected to the team, you will likely not give two hoots about it. I had to write it, because it was in me and it really wanted out. And when you’re a writer (even just a hackish one, like me) the only way to get it out is to write it. In short, those readers who are in the majority and care nothing for the topic have my apologies and many humble thanks for their forbearance.

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“Baseball becomes dull only to those with dull minds. Today’s game is always different from yesterday’s game.” -Red Barber

Perhaps my favorite thing about baseball is that despite the millions of games that have been played throughout its history, things that have never happened before are still occurring every day. Nobody ever has ever seen it all and nobody ever will see it all. In every season and for every team there are always dozens and dozens of little surprises waiting around the corner to astonish, delight, and/or vex us.

Even as a young(ish) person, I feel like I have witnessed so many crazy, hilarious, terrifying things that took place on a baseball diamond. Sparkling debuts, jaw-dropping catches, scary injuries, rain outs, rain out player antics, a fog out, a hail-out, a black-out, an umpire thinking the game was over after the 8th inning and charging off the field only to turn very red and resume his post when he realized his mistake, an umpire and a coach nearly coming to fisticuffs after the game was over, an umpire losing his footing and falling on the seat of his pants in the middle of a play, winning streaks, losing streaks, a bunt that resulted in an inside-the-park home run (hit by the slowest player on the team, no less)… I could go on and on. And you, readers, certainly have such treasuries of your own stored up.

A more-than-substantial portion of the aforementioned events took place at New Market Rebels’ games. You can always count on the VBL for the weird, exciting, and horrific. The current season is less than halfway through, and it has already been all these things. You’d think I would have learned to anticipate all manners of fantastic things by now, but I haven’t. I’m always taken by surprise.

Allow me to sum up what has happened in Rebel-land so far in 2012:

Nobody in New Market was feeling too gung-ho after the first few games that were played this season. At the same time, you lose a couple and still think, “It’s early, we’ve got plenty of time.” A few losses later you think, “Well, this isn’t good. But it is still early,” and you retain a morsel of hope. By the time of the eighth straight loss, hope was all but gone. We were all heartily discouraged and seriously began to contemplate whether it was possible for a team to go an entire season without winning a single game. And in our hearts we were really afraid that it was.

And then, at last, a spark of light! A win! A walk-off win! A walk-off win against a team that could have crushed us! Euphoria! With the assurance that the Rebels would not, in fact, go 0-44, there was much rejoicing (in the stands AND on the field).

Of course, even with the elephant having been joyfully escorted from the room, with that horrible weight off of everyone’s shoulders, eventually reality sunk in and you remembered that our record was still 1-8. A team doesn’t just turn around over night. Especially not one that had to this point displayed shaky pitching, untimely hitting, questionable defense, and cringe-inducing running of the bases. Best not to get too excited.

But then we won another. And another, and another. A come-from-behind victory here, a good old fashioned trouncing there… suddenly, our little fan hearts were alive with hope again. And I forgot about trying to memorize poetry in the middle of games (what I generally do when a certain game or team becomes very hard to watch), which was almost a shame, because I was really beginning to wish I knew Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the Thing With Feathers”. (Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul, / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all...)

I witnessed my first ever in-person walk-off home run (aside from one or two that came from an opposing team… but those don’t count). The guys managed to come through with three straight walk-off wins at home. Just like that, winning had practically become an expectation. And after having lost eight straight to start the season, these boys won eight straight to make up for it.

This brings us up to the present. The Rebels are 8-10 and in fourth place in their division (it might not sound too spectacular, but it is far and above what one would have expected just a week or two ago). The list of strange, exciting things I’ve seen in baseball has grown to include miraculous in-season turnarounds. Truly, I have never seen anything like it.

The really crazy thing is that this season is still quite young, and there are likely a hundred more crazy things waiting to spring out and spook us in the coming weeks. Isn’t that fantastic? This is why I love baseball. It is insane and unpredictable, just like life. And I’m a little terrified… but I can’t wait to experience whatever is going to happen next.

Stay tuned.

A Rebelious link post

Hey gang! Happy June and all that.

Another exciting year of New Market Rebels baseball has commenced and everyone in our little community is naturally all aflutter. I know it isn’t quite possible for all of my readers (far and wide as you happen to be) to share in this particular passion of mine. So instead of bombarding you with VBL-love, as is my usual way at this time of year, I am instead going to simply offer a handful of links to some previous effusions. You may take them or leave them. Think of this as a Choose Your Own Adventure post (it isn’t really like that at all. But the comparison occurred to me and I couldn’t not mention it, as I used to love Choose Your Own Adventure books. Not as much as Valley League Baseball, but still a whole lot. Mystery of Chimney Rock 4 life!!!)

So, yes. Links:

If you only click one, make it this ‘un. It’s fresh off the presses! I was delighted to be able to moonlight over at the blog of a friend of mine last week (thanks for the opportunity, Staci!). It’s like a travel brochure/Valentine mash-up singing the praises of our fabulous little league.

2011 Farewell Post

2010 Farewell Post

2011 Introductory Post

2004 Article from the Washington Post (I did not write this one, as I do not work for the Washington Post).

Video Coverage!

Pie!

And, just for kicks, here’s a video depicting a bit of improvised pre-game fun.

 

 

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

The curtains have closed on another VBL season in New Market, VA. Our beloved Rebels were eliminated in the decisive 3rd game of the first playoff round. Last games are always a sad event, and this year was no exception.

The season as a whole was up and down- up, mostly, in the first half, and down in the latter. We lost several key players at the end, which didn’t help our cause any. The guys never called it quits, though… they didn’t just roll over and resign themselves to a losing fate. They did not, to quote poet Dylan Thomas, “go gentle in to that good night.” As far as I am concerned, that’s all you can really ask of a team, that they fight. There were intervals in that short playoff series where, for some reason, I kept feeling possessed to shout, “Goonies never say die!” (But I didn’t.)

I will miss a lot of things about the 2011 team and about Rebels baseball in general. Here are just a few of them…

  • The choir of chirping grasshoppers backing up Tacy Hawkins’ National Anthem from the hayfield beyond the outfield wall.

  • Explaining the various dishes of food to the hungry boys at postgame meals. Most of them will eat pretty much anything, but they always want to know exactly what everything is, and what is in it.

  • The now-traditional 6th inning rally song. The player involvement is always amusing, but I won’t miss that so much as watching all the older ladies who sit behind homeplate pumping their fists to the beat. Always puts a smile on my face.
  • Coming home with an inch of dusty dirt on the hems of my pant legs.
  • Antonio Callaway’s fro.

  • Jaren Sustar’s defense at third base. Sparkling.
  • Seth Greene continually attempting to get tossed baseballs to land/perch on a beam in the roof of the dugout. The silly game never seemed to get old.

  • Waiting for an appropriate opportunity to shout “Nobody puts Gaby in a corner!in the direction of outfielder Tyler Gaby. I never got it…

Almost works here…

  • Reciting poetry in my head during hard-to-watch losses. Though I still have the Cubs for this, I suppose.
  • The sort of random, assorted antics that inevitably hatch from the minds of college-aged relief pitchers with enough time on their hands.

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A few more photos, for fun:

Rebels participate in New Market’s 4th of July parade. It was a damp one this year.

11th annual Reading with the Rebels event, put on by the New Market Library.

The Kodak moments always outnumber the cameras at Reading with the Rebels. Always.

“Orphan” pitchers Max Kreuter and Cam Ward escort each other during Parents’ Weekend.

I might miss the unbeatable loveliness of cool summer evenings at Rebel Park more than anything.

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So long and farewell, 2011 Rebels squad! I salute you, one and all.

While I Was Out…

I am afraid the FBB has been sadly neglected over the past few weeks, but I promise it has not been without just cause! I have been to and fro all over creation (well, really just New Market, Chicagoland, and Washington DC) and have had few moments to spare for writing.

Instead of spreading out or just ignoring the happenings of my hiatus, as I would probably usually do, I’m just gonna cram them all here into one awkward post. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get to it!

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Love & Marriage: I can’t not include this… My most loyal reader/commenter (who also happens to be my cousin and one of my favorite people in the whole wide world) was married on June 25th. It was pure joy being there with her on that special day. Congratulations, my dear Melinda!

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Cubs: It was sort of nice to be able to ignore the Cubs for awhile, as both losses and injuries have continued to heap up. Marlon Byrd, Matt Garza, Reed Johnson and Darwin Barney all returned from the disabled list. Carlos Zambrano went in the opposite direction. Jeff Baker also came off of the DL, but then he hurt himself again. But I think he’s OK, now. Ryan Dempster was on the fritz as well. Marcos Mateo had a really lovely outing on the same day that Big Z went down, then he went down himself in his next appearance. DJ LeMahieu and Lou Montanez were sent packing to triple-A Iowa. Casey Coleman was brought up from the I-Cubs and promptly sent back down. Chris Carpenter was sent down to the I-Cubs and promptly brought back up. It’s all very mind-dizzying and, as I said, it was nice to not pay much attention for a week or so.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, however, the Cubs had pretty much ALL my attention, as I traveled with my siblings to see them play a pair of games against the Nationals in our nation’s capital. In classic Cubs fashion, they lost both games. Our experience was most fortunately redeemed thanks to our success in the “souvenir” collecting department (autographs, baseballs, etc.,)

A few notes about individuals:

“Professional” ballhawk and grade-A nincompoop Zach Hample was in attendance at Tuesday’s game. I watched him push by an innocent person right in front of me, saying loudly and flatly, “Watch out.” What ever happened to “Excuse me?” I was incredibly disappointed that no opportunity to bump, fall into or step on Mr. Hample by “accident” presented itself. It probably would have been wrong, but I would have enjoyed it immensely.

Koyie Hill: I have decided that Koyie is a really cool guy. And I think that people need to quit treating him like a kitten-eater. I don’t care what his batting average is.

Sean Marshall: Also a really cool guy. Sean probably does really deserve to play for a team better than the Cubs, but I am a selfish fan and I hope he never ever goes away.

Matt Garza: The Muppet Man definitely gained a few cool points in my book this week. We saw him outside Nationals Park and he declined to sign any autographs, saying he’d “get us inside.” I assumed he was just saying that, but he proved to be true to his word. I thought it was very good of him.

Tony Campana: What a sweetpea. That’s all I have to say.

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Starlin Castro: Starlin gets his own heading in bold because he is just that cool. And because I love him. And because he was elected to his first MLB All Star team. Let us hope it is the first of many! Congrats, kiddo!

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Rebels: As always, the New Market Rebels have been bringing much fun, excitement, and chaos into our lives. Last Friday I sat through the longest game (inning-wise) I’ve ever attended. It spanned 19, easily beating the previous record 17, and we won, so it was more than worth it.

On Saturday morning, Rebel Park hosted an open batting practice for whomever wanted to participate. It was a small group, but we had a good time. I managed to hit a few balls that made it past the infield grass, and I think one of them might have rolled all the way into the outfield grass if it hadn’t been fielded. That’s right! Look out, Albert Pujols.

Among our number were two Rebels alumni, pitcher Tim Adinolfi (1999) and third baseman Adam Frederick (2004-05.) It was extra awesome to have those guys there. I turned into a total fan when “Freddy” pitched to me on my last turn in the batter’s box. Is it fair to blame my poor contact skills on the fact that I was thinking more about that unforgettable playoff series in ’05 in which he drove in 6 runs? No? Well, I’m doing it anyway.

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Elsewhere in baseball: I was definitely jealous of the hard-core campaign the Nationals have going to get Mike Morse onto the NL All Star team via MLB.com’s “Final Vote.” If I had that kind of fire-power, the Darwin Barney initiative might have gone somewhere. Oh well.

The Cardinals released former All-Star closer Ryan Franklin. On the surface, this was not a significant piece of news to me. BUT, as St. Lou chose to fill Mr. Franklin’s roster spot with none other than legendary 2006 New Market Rebels all star closer Cotton Dickson, it quickly became very significant indeed! Major, major congrats to Cotton! Here’s hoping he sticks around in the bigs for a good long time!

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Well guys, I hope that my posts here at the FBB will be more consistent the next few weeks. Thanks for sticking out the craziness with me.