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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“There is a legend. And to protest is daft.”

This may or may not be Valley Baseball League takeover week here at the FBB… it probably is. In any case, I’d be remiss not to attempt to give today’s subject proper attention.

Last week marked the end of an era in my hometown, as our Rebels long time (long, long time) hitting coach, Mo Weber (also known as “The Legend of the Valley”) decided to hang up his spikes.

How can I capture Mo in words? Where do I even start? My talents cannot be sufficient in doing the man justice. At first I thought I might draw some comparison between Mo and some other illustrious baseball personage. No good! Anyone who knows Mo will know that he has no equal. Legends are always without equivalent.

For lack of anything better to do, I’m just going to start at the beginning, from my point of view. Around the age of 11 or 12, I began to attend a lot of Rebels games with my friends. We enjoyed hanging out at the park (probably not paying very good attention to the game action, I’m sad to say) and learning the identities of the various players. I remember in 2000 my friend Autumn and I being particularly proud of the fact that we could identify each man on the roster by name and number. Without a shadow of a doubt, our favorite “player” was Mo. I couldn’t tell you what it was, but we just loved him. At season’s end, we collected autographs and a picture with Mo, and listened enraptured as he told us about his days as a schoolteacher. Some years back, my sister and I even had a t-shirt with Mo’s photo on it custom-made for Aut’s birthday.

Everyone has his or her favorite Mo story… one of mine took place in 2004, during a rather unpleasant sort of game. The umpires that evening, to put it nicely, were, um… having some problems making good calls. We watched as our coaching staff got ejected one by one, and, finally, Mo was the last one left. He didn’t miss a beat and, even though it was a bad game outcome-wise, it was a fun one. Mo managed and coached first base, like usual. Fan favorite pitcher Tim Norton was charged with coaching third. It was clear that Tim was having a blast, and I’m pretty sure the rest of the guys enjoyed it, too. I know I did.

Another time, I just happened to overhear a snippet of conversation between Mo, pitching coach Rick Smith, and some fans. I have no earthly idea what they were talking about. The only lines I caught were along these lines:

Coach Smith (about Mo): “He was wrestling a two-hundred pound chimpanzee this morning.”

Mo: “Well, yeah… but he had a muzzle on.”

Figure that one out.

Mo is notorious for his joke-making. For instance, in 2005, the Rebels played in a rain-delayed game, defeating the Covington Lumberjacks 22-3. The contest lasted past 1 AM and, needless to say, most of the fans left before it was finished. “Did you know this park used to be air-conditioned?” Mo asked the straggling crowd between innings late in the game. “There used to be a fan in every seat.” Another time, when my Mom asked how he’d celebrated his birthday, he told her that he had hit all the clubs in downtown New Market. The jokes might be silly, but when Mo tells them nobody can help but laugh.

There is so much more that makes Mo special, but these are the things that are trickier to capture in words. You just have to know. He always has a twinkle in his eye, and a jump in his step (even at 87.) He has been a fixture in the Rebels dugout for so many years… you would almost always spot him talking to one of the young men, doubtless passing on some bit of advice or pearl of wisdom. Occasionally he might stroll over and strike up a conversation with a fan at the fence, or in the stands, hands on his hips, in no kind of hurry. He always wore his signature cleats, navy blue stirrups, and #1 jersey (or, prior to 2006, #11.) Mo always seems to have time to talk to anyone and everyone, and a way of making whoever is on the other end the the conversation feel important.

It will be strange not seeing him in the dugout or on the field any longer. It may be in a different capacity, but I do fully expect the legend to continue to grow. In the meantime, we must offer Mo our heartfelt gratitude for his years of service to our team, along with our best wished for a happy retirement.

Thanks, Mo! We love you.

Follow this link for video footage of Mo’s birthday/retirement announcement from WHSV.