By Preston Knight - firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET - Bruce Alger talks up the New Market Rebels for their stadium, Rebel Park, and a combination of the "mystique, mountains and moonlight" that brings people to Valley Baseball League games each summer.
"It seems to reel them in," he said.
Austin Gisriel is a different story.
The Williamsport, Md., resident was vacationing in New Market with his family in 2002 when he noticed a sign along Congress Street that mentioned a Rebels baseball game to be played that night.
"Any team that advertises on an old-fashioned sandwich board," said Gisriel, 52, "we gotta go check this out."
For this, Alger, the team's president and general manager, is forever grateful. In Gisriel, a freelance writer who became a Rebels' regular, he found someone who could write a work that he felt was missing on bookshelves -- a story depicting the lives of VBL players and the relationships they form with host families, set to the scene of New Market and Rebel Park.
"Safe at Home: A Season in the Valley," should go to the publisher this week and be printed in the next several weeks, Gisriel said.
The approximately 223-page book, which includes pictures from team photographer Melissa Dodge, chronicles the Rebels from the end of their 2008 season through the 2009 season.
Alger gave Gisriel full access to team and league meetings, including sitting in during interviews for the managerial opening in 2009. The author rode the team bus, sat in uniform in the bullpen and more.
"I've read it half a dozen times," Alger said, "and I can't wait to read it again."
Baseball is the hook, but the book takes readers beyond the diamond to understand how a team in the league operates, from advertising to recruiting collegiate players to finding housing for team members, Gisriel said.
"We started going to Rebel games and one thing led to another and I became a real fan of the team," he said. "It's a real homely atmosphere."
Alger said there are 10 or 12 fans from out of state who can be considered "regulars" at games each summer. Gisriel lives about 90 miles away.
"He kind of fell in our laps," Alger said. "He's been a regular ever since. ... We formed a mutual bond. We've been virtually side by side, e-mailing, telephoning or actually with one another since last August ."
Gisriel said of 2009, "It was a great way to spend a summer."
Baseball is a game played at a pace that lends itself to storytelling, he said. New Market's relationship with the sport provides an "excellent" backdrop, Gisriel said.
"The idea that some sort of old-fashioned baseball is alive and well in small-town America, I think New Market is an excellent representation of that," he said. "These guys come in and they're sons."
The book will sell for $15. Anyone interested should visit www.rebelsbaseball.biz for updates on its release and a pending Web site dedicated to it. Gisriel has tentatively scheduled a book signing for Jan. 16 at the New Market Area Library.