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The end of the 2011 regular season for the Valley Baseball League is quickly approaching. This means that the Strasburg Express' inaugural season is just about a wrap, making it a time to look back on an interesting experience for all of those involved.
I know that players, coaches, management, and fans enjoyed the season and had fun being part of a new, exciting team. However, more than that I believe that this season proved to be a great learning experience.
I would like to clarify that I am not using the term "learning experience" as a euphemism for a losing season that landed us in last place in the league and I surely don't wish to use the inaugural season factor as a scapegoat for our many losses. Actually, we had one of the most successful seasons out of any Valley League expansion team throughout the league's history, if not the most successful one, according to my reliable sources and all of the information the internet provided me with. Currently we have a record of 14 wins and 29 losses, which puts us four games behind Haymarket, the third place team in the North Division.
Again, I am not trying to make things sound better than they already are, but we lost a lot of close games, could not catch many breaks at all, and lost a number of crucial calls that could have turned games around for us. If we could have gotten some of those calls or had some of those close games fall in our favor, we could certainly be right in the playoff picture or at least above fifteen wins already.
However, looking back at all of our games, it seemed we were somewhat doomed to have a tough season and be dashed of any playoff hopes from the first game. We ended up losing that game to Haymarket 5-3 after the Express' Connor Madden was called out at home after the ball had popped right out of the catcher's mitt on a force play, quelling our 6th inning rally.
I think even the umpire knew this call was not right at all and it definitely proved to be the turning point of the game. This cost us our chance to tie the game by stranding three runners on base. It just seemed like we were not meant to win that game, and the same can be said for a number of other games.
To highlight some of the tougher losses, we ended up losing two games to walk-off hits, dropped a close one to Staunton in the 11th inning, were defeated with a go-ahead homer in the 9th at New Market, and Waynesboro took us down 4-3 on an overturned foul ball home run call. Also, we were ousted again by Waynesboro on a go-ahead hit in the 9th inning, had a 9th inning rally fall one run short versus Winchester, and our final out at our final Winchester game happened to be at home plate and would have tied the game at 6-6.
However, despite too many tough losses that left our season with some "what-ifs," we still have a lot to be proud of for a brand new expansion team. Even with so many close games, we pulled out fourteen great wins. The last expansion team was Rockbridge and they could only manage nine victories. In addition, we played a lot of good baseball, proved to every team in the league that we were equally talented, and did not quit. Sure, we knew fairly early that we would be left out of the playoff race, which could have prompted a lot of players to leave prematurely, but we have kept our guys and kept playing strong baseball in efforts to finish the summer positively and rack up as many wins as we can.
Our perseverance certainly paid off with a walk-off win to end our last home game as the inaugural Strasburg Express team against Haymarket, the team that beat us in our first home game as the inaugural squad. Only 15 (hopefully 15) wins out of 44 games, yet an extremely memorable, joyful and historical summer full of priceless memories.
Myself and my teammates surely realize the uniqueness of the situation and are quite grateful for the opportunity Strasburg provided us with this summer. We know that it was no easy task by a long shot to complete all of the necessary preparation work.
Only a handful of athletes get to be members of brand new teams, make history, and set the bar for future teams. We feel lucky to be the first group of players to represent Strasburg on baseball diamonds all across the valley. We may have shared more downs than ups, but my last hopes are that we all leave as better baseball players and better men and leave Valley League baseball to flourish for years to come in Strasburg.