One of the highlights of the 2009 Waynesboro Generals Baseball season was meeting young Joe Kuykendall. Joe was in Waynesboro visiting his family and we started talking about two of my favorite topics- baseball and sports writing.
It turns out that Joe was visiting from the Northeast and was writing for a site by the name of www.bostonsportsu18.com . The site is for young writers to have a chance to share their views and is full of quality work. We were able to set up some time for Joe to spend with a few of the players while he was in town and you will find th story below.
I played high school golf outside of St.Louis my final two years of high school. STL is where Dad went to work after retiring from the Navy. I noticed that our golf team wasn’t getting any coverage from the local newspaper so I went down there to ask why. Carla was the Sports Editor at the St. Charles Journal way back then and she mentioned being a one man band and that she had no means to cover golf. I offered my services to her and as they say in the business- the rest is history.
I was fortunate to get to write while I was still in school and reading the quality of work that Joe put together made me think- there has to be some writers in the local schools that would welcome the chance to practice their trade. Having stories written from within the schools and published here on the site would possibly open another set of doors for both additional coverage and checking out the possibility of writing for a living down the road.
If you have a few minutes to enjoy the solid works of Joe I encourage you to read his work below. If you think you have the desire to write about your sports teams you should let us know.
There are More College Summer Leagues Out There Besides the Cape Cod League
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
by Joe Kuykendall
WAYNESBORO, VA — While they might not be as popular as the Cape Cod League, the National Alliance of College Summer Baseball (which is funded by the MLB) does in fact have more summer leagues across the country. In fact there are seven more leagues under that alliance, and even more outside of it. While only few of them use wooden bats like the Cape League, there was one wooden bat summer league that I had the pleasure of attending a game and talking to some of the leagues talented players.
That wonderful league is located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and for that reason, is called the Valley League. It consists of all local teams; the farthest drive from one team to another is about three hours. No fancy hotels but rather staying with host families all summer. No chance to be with families and friends all summer but rather their host families, teammates, and coaches. No video scoreboards or filled stadium seats but rather a scoreboard that shows box and line scores, somewhat filled metal bleachers, and hillsides. No charter buses but rather an ancient rickety school bus. Nor can they afford a tarp to cover the field. So why you might ask would a player want to play in this league with all those circumstances? The answer is simple-for the love of the game and to improve their skills. The players could care less whether or not the league is known nationwide like the Cape League but that they have a chance to play what they love and improve at baseball to help out their college teams.
Some of the cities/towns with a team include Waynesboro, Staunton, Luray, Winchester, and eight more teams besides those. The league is played during the months of June and July with a few off days mixed. Each team plays 44 games plus the playoffs if the team qualifies. When they have away games, they come back that night after the game. So, if it’s a long game the players might not get back home until the next morning and then have another game the next night.
As you can see, the players don’t play in the Valley League for the popularity like the Cape League. In fact teams in the Valley League have had numerous players commit to the Valley League and ultimately leave in to go play on Cape Cod. The teams don’t get as many sponsors as the Cape League. For this, it costs to see a game in the Valley League, no free games like the Cape League. On a good night the teams average about 500 fans. While that is a league average some teams do draw about 1,000 fans a night.
After a usual late night for three Valley League Players, I had the pleasure of going to their host’s house and talking to them for a little bit.
All three of the players are pitchers for the Waynesboro Generals and all live together at the home of their host, Mary McDermott. The players were Mike Hernandez, a sophomore at Butler University; Andy Altemus, a senior at West Virginia University; and Tyler Almond (pictured pitching in a game for the Generals) a senior at Wingate University in North Carolina. Almond was the only one of the three who had not heard of the Valley League before playing in it, but all players had heard of the Cape League before. As Hernandez put it, “I heard of the Cape League mainly through movies.”
That right there is a prime example of how the Cape League is the one that gets all the publicity, but there are many more summer leagues of the greatest sport the country has to offer.
Almond and Hernandez were told by their coaches to play Valley League whereas Altemus was given offers to play in Alaska, Coastal Plains, and the Cal Ripken Summer League.
All players admitted they think the Valley League has some of the best competition in the country.
Altemus also said, “I enjoy the wooden bats because it helps me get ready for pro ball…I have friends in the Cape League and they all said it’s not much better or different than the Valley League.”
All three players have hopes of some day playing professional baseball just like many current and former Major Leaguers did at the time of their career in the Valley League. Some notable alumni include Emil Brown, Chris Carter, David Eckstein, Adam Everett, Aubrey Huff, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Mike Lowell, Javier Lopez, Juan Pierre, Luke Scott, Kyle Snyder, and Chad Tracy.
This season, the Generals have both a new owner and head Coach. The new owner, Jerry Carter said that, “This is our town, and our team. But the problem is we have about 350 fans per game and we have 20,000 people who live in Waynesboro. I think that 19,000 people don’t even know we exist and that’s a problem.”
His goal as owner is to give the town the team, not himself the team. That is why recently he offered up 100 $1,000 shares of the Generals.
Last year before he became owner, Carter headed a promotion which was to get fans to visit every Valley League Ballpark and get a stamp from it in hopes of publicizing and spreading the wonderful Valley League throughout the Valley, about 52 fans in all completed the challenge.
Carter also said, “The Cape Cod is at the top of all Summer Leagues, every other Summer League competes to be second, no one will catch the Cape League.”
As for the playoffs, with only two regular season games to go, the Generals are already out of playoff contention but the players all said they loved playing but are ready to get back home.
The game I went to was one of the big rivals in the Valley League between the Waynesboro (Va) Generals and the Staunton (Va) Braves. The drive from those towns to another is about 15 minutes, which is one reason for the rivalry. Because of the rivalry, the crowd had about 1,100 fans in total. The game was close for a while but the Braves pulled away to win 16-8 aided by a four-error third inning by the Generals.
If you are ever down in this area, I highly recommend you checking out a game. The Valley League website is valleyleaguebaseball.com. If you have any further questions about the league or my article, I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.