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By Josh Herzenberg - Strasburg Express
If you spoke to me at this time last year, I wouldn't have expected to be living on a 300-acre hay farm overlooking a mountain in Toms Brook, Virginia, for an entire summer. I'd look at you like you had two heads.
I grew up just outside of New York City ... where people ride subways and work in skyscrapers. I'd never been on a four-wheeler, or went hunting, or river fishing, or rode a John Deere through the cornfields.
Well lo and behold, that's exactly where I am and what I'm doing.
I drove back to Oneonta to spend the beginning of Memorial Day weekend with my girlfriend and her family to celebrate her college graduation. She received a bachelor's degree in nursing and walked to get her diploma on Saturday afternoon. Sunday at 8 a.m., I crammed everything I had into my '99 Civic and headed west toward Binghamton. Then once I got to Binghamton, the GPS told me to make a right and get onto I-81 South and don't stop until I reached my destination.
I really had no expectations for my experience coming into Strasburg and playing in the Valley League. My main objective of the summer was to rehab my arm back into shape, and hopefully being on a field and actively participating with a talented group of guys will help me succeed in doing just that. I wanted to make new friends, meet new people, and get to learn the area that I'd be calling home for the next few months. Most of all, I wanted to completely maximize the pleasurable opportunity I have to play in my last official season of summer collegiate baseball.
Here's a short list of things I've learned since arriving into Strasburg, things that throw me off from my typical life I've become accustomed to:
1. Everyone owns at least one gun.
2. Everyone likes NASCAR.
3. There are bugs everywhere.
4. It's really hot.
5. You can see Signal Knob from just about anywhere in the valley.
Let's face facts. Life in the Shenandoah Valley is different than it is in Westchester County, New York. Gone is the hustle and bustle of the city, the high profile corporations and the busyness of the environment. Now, I don't even have to lock my car door at night.
I am thoroughly enjoying the change of pace and new environment that I have found myself in here in the valley. The area is absolutely beautiful. It provides a wide array of topography and a myriad of picturesque views. The town of Strasburg is a very pretty small town that avails its residents and visitors a large variety of opportunities for entertainment, whether it be a small shop, a corner store or a historical museum chronicling the town's lengthy and quite interesting history.
The one thing that has stuck out to me thus far is the tight-knit aspect of the community. Being that I grew up in a city in the New York Metropolitan Area, which has a population well into the tens of millions, I am not used to seeing so many people rally around local events. From a sporting perspective, New York has the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Nets, Rangers, Islanders, Devils and Red Bulls all within an hour from each other as major professional sports teams. Combined with an enormous economic headquarters and a lot of other things, there isn't too much "town pride" as I call it.
I went to the Strasburg High School baseball game last night at First Bank Park to watch them compete in the Virginia state regional tournament and was completely blown away. The stands were almost completely full! Everyone was donning white or purple attire, and everyone was involved in cheering for the game and for the high school players. At my high school baseball games, the crowd consisted of some sets of parents and maybe a girlfriend or two. There was certainly no band of people from the surrounding area that came to cheer us on.
After speaking with several residents of Strasburg, I found out that this is the norm for all the local sports. Wrestling, football, basketball, volleyball... you name it, they have a fan base.
From this angle, I am extremely jealous. I wish I had this kind of support from my hometown, this kind of pure love for the place that I live and the happiness that it brings for people to come together and enjoy an event for a singular purpose. But it also excited me very much. For the next few months, I will be a temporary resident of this place, a surrogate fan if you will. I will be fully entrenched in the town's love and desire to seemingly be a singular family, and I am looking forward to it very much.
As a member of the Express, I am elated to be able to be a part of something that seems so special for the people of the town. A Valley League team seems to be an important thing to the town to have and to be a part of that is thrilling. I hope to see every one of you out at First Bank Park throughout the summer. Our first game is this Thursday night, June 2, at 7 p.m. I am looking forward to meeting as many people as I can during my visit, and very excited to start the season!
If you happen to be at the park or hanging out in town, I wear No. 31 for the Express. Please don't hesitate to come introduce yourself to me, as part of the pleasure I get from being a part of this team is the opportunity to create new relationships and friendships ... especially with the people that I now call my neighbors ... the extended family that is the town of Strasburg.