By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- All aboard the Strasburg Express.
After sifting through suggestions from the Strasburg community the past several weeks, the town's newest addition to the Valley Baseball League will be nicknamed the Strasburg Express.
The decision was reached after residents in the community submitted suggestions for the team's nickname, with the top six choices to be voted on to decide the winner.
"We had folks send in 115 suggestions," Strasburg Express general manager Jay Neal, Jr. said on Tuesday. "A couple of them got tossed out early on, but we narrowed it down to six, then we did online voting."
Among the first nominations to go were some of the more unique choices, including the "Drooling Red Necks" and the "Strasburg Mudpuppies." Included in the final six choices were the Renegades, Pride, Volunteers and the Thunder.
From there, people went online to vote for their favorite, with the winner to be chosen as the team's official nickname. The only stipulation was that the league could overrule the final decision. Fortunately, their tastes agreed with the fans, as the Express finished as the top vote-getter.
With the nickname in place, Neal said the next step is to apply for a Pepsi Refresh Challenge Grant, a donation from Pepsi of up to $250,000 in order to reinvigorate, restore and build different community projects. There are several grants, each with a different amount of money awarded.
Submissions for the grant will begin tonight at midnight when the company will accept the first 1,000 applicants. If accepted, the request for the grant goes into an online voting system for 30 days, where people can submit one vote per computer per day for the Strasburg Express to be chosen as the winner.
Neal knows it won't be easy, as hundreds of other meaningful projects around the country will be rallying for support. But if it is selected, it would set in motion a massive reconstruction project at the Strasburg baseball fields.
"The plan is if we could get that, and we know it's a long shot, but we would replace the lighting at the baseball fields, replace the bleachers and hopefully build a combination gift shop/locker room," Neal said. "It's a beautiful playing surface and we would try to make what's outside the fence as nice as inside."
If accepted, fans can search for "Strasburg Express community baseball" and click on the link to the Pepsi Refresh Challenge. In order to spread the word on the potential grant, Neal said the league is networking with local schools and businesses for support, as well as taking advantage of social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, in hopes they will be selected.
"We're trying to spread the word far and wide," he said. "We'll put the project description on the Web site and we know it's probably crazy, but we're trying to be as ambitious as possible."
Even if the Express aren't awarded the grant, look for plenty of new features before the team begins play in 2011, all conducive to the Express nickname.
Neal has been collecting sound clips for the team, including a train whistle and a conductor shouting, "All aboard!" The potential gift shop will be named the Purple Caboose, while the team photo at the stadium can be found at the Strasburg Depot.
It's a lofty goal, Neal admits. But with a little luck during the application process and support from people in the community, the Strasburg fields can get some much-needed renovations and the Strasburg Express can roll into its inaugural season full steam ahead.