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By Matt Verdillo - Strasburg Express
Considering that this is my first entry for nvdaily.com, I thought it would be best if I wrote about the lifestyle of a player on the Strasburg Express, as well as what it's like to be a member of a new team.
As players, most of our time here revolves around a fairly strict routine. On a basic level, that routine consists of waking up, eating, working out, eating, relaxing for a little while, going to the game, going back to our host homes, and repeating.
Even though such a fixed schedule would seem to be quite mundane, we manage to keep it more than bearable. Whether it's working out together or meeting for lunch before we head to the field, we make sure to plan some activities that keep our schedule a little less predictable and stringent. On multiple occasions some of us have met at Jalisco's Mexican Restaurant and Anthony's Pizza before driving to the field. Even after some games, players may meet at the always-open Denny's Restaurant before going to sleep and starting the process over again.
This lifestyle is repetitive and can be tough to maintain day in and day out, but luckily for us we have good team chemistry and enjoy spending time together off the field, which allows us to make this summer all the more fun.
Also, we sometimes find the need to entertain ourselves before, during, and after games and especially during weather delays. When the glow of iPods and Smart Phones becomes too much of a strain (or just lack battery power) we have turned to a number of different games.
A pre-game pastime is fungo golf, in which the players select a hole, which is usually a sign on the fence or a pole, and the player to hit it in the least amount of hits wins the hole. We use fungo bats and baseballs instead of clubs and golf balls.
On a couple of occasions we have also played Frisbee before batting practice begins. Some less-active games we play are Green Glass Door, the Stick Game, Destinations Game, and many more. During a couple rain delays, we actually played tic-tac-toe with the opposing team by drawing the board on a baseball and after we make our move, toss it over to their dugout so they could make theirs. If anyone would like more details about the variety of games we play, I would be more than happy to write another post about the most popular one's accompanied by some pictures and videos.
I will not deny that many of us shared a certain level of skepticism and hesitance about spending our summer in Strasburg, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley. With the exception of a few players, no one was very familiar with Strasburg before signing with the team, even players that come from in-state. Some guys had reservations about what their host families would be like, how far they would have to drive every day, what there would be to do, or if there would be good places to eat, among other concerns. Granted, some of these concerns are probably shared with all other players that spend their summers in collegiate baseball leagues around the country, but the fact that we would be playing for a brand new team seemed to amplify our worries and create some new ones.
Just like the first few days at a new school or a new job is generally the most stressful and nerve-wracking, so are the first few practices and games of a brand new team. Sure, the team had been created, but because the Express had not been established in the VBL like the other teams, there was a certain amount of uncertainty and unfamiliarity that loomed for a while. It raised questions such as: Will the community receive and accept us? Will they support us? Or wish we were never created? Will it be a good place to play and live? Will we have adequate equipment and facilities? Will anyone even come to our games?
Little did we know how awesome the community of Strasburg would be. Scores of locals volunteered to help install improvements at First Bank Park. Local businesses donated resources and sponsored us in order to see us start strong and remain strong. A wonderful mother-daughter-led team always ensures that we are well-nourished (many times pre- and post-game and even when the one road to the field is closed). Just as amazing as our food providers is our grounds crew, which is something most VBL teams cannot say they have. Also, we always have good crowds, even on the weekdays. It is a brilliant organization that is truly exceeding expectations.
So far Strasburg seems to love the Express, and the Express sure seem to love Strasburg, making the future of VBL baseball in Strasburg quite promising. Overall, we realize that it is pretty special to be part of an inaugural team that competes in such a prestigious league. It is pretty neat to be able to represent a great town like Strasburg, especially after all they have done for us.
Seeing as most of us have never been a member of an inaugural team, it is quite a different and unpredictable experience. For instance, due to struggles early in the season and a large number in the losses column, many VBL followers simply credited our lack of success to the fact that we were a first year expansion team. However, we actually have great talent playing in Strasburg this summer and have showed it more and more as the season has progressed. There are definitely certain expectations that other teams are not associated with since we are brand new and for the most part, they have been low. It can be quite a challenge to overcome such low expectations, but we have adjusted to playing on a new team and managed to continue to improve and play at a higher level than had been anticipated. It really helps when you have such a supportive group as the Strasburg community staying behind you, even when the losing streaks won't leave.
We are proud to be the first Strasburg team in VBL history and look forward to winning many more games, breaking more expectations, and setting a challenging goal for the next Express team to work toward.