The Valley Baseball League season begins tonight and there are some definite changes. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
I'm actually very excited for this summer. I think the VBL, especially with all the new changes could be better than ever.
One of the biggest changes is there will be no divisions this year. The Rockbridge Rapids had to fold and they were not able to find a replacement, but they are expecting to have one next year.
If they go back to divisions it would be nice if they could put New Market in the North. I always found it odd to have two Shenandoah County teams in one division and one in the other. The county teams should always be together.
Due to having an odd number of teams, one team will have a scheduled night off each night.
Woodstock manager Phil Betterly said he thinks this will be a good thing.
"It gives the guys a chance to get off their feet," Betterly said. "We have some guys that have played 60, 65 games, it gives them a chance to get off their feet. If they want to go do something to get away from the game a little bit, recharge the batteries and come back out the next day. I think that's huge, especially with the rain, there's bound to be rainouts, and them building in more off days, I think, is a very good thing."
In the past teams played teams in their own divisions more than teams outside their divisions. Obviously, that won't be the case this season. There will be a little more travel involved, but Betterly said that he thinks it will be good to have the schedule more spread out across the entire league.
Eight teams will still advance to the playoffs just like in the past, and all of the playoff series will be best-of-three, including the championship series.
I think that is a very good move. Usually by the time the championship series is held the players are ready to leave or have already left, and they are the reason that the area has a league in the first place.
I love high school sports as much as anybody in the planet, but during the summer it's nice to be able to watch some college baseball players. Some of them go on to much bigger things. I can still remember seeing players such as current New York Yankee Brett Gardner and former Baltimore Oriole Chris Ray play for the New Market Rebels.
One of the other parts that I love about the Valley League is some of the great promotions they put on for the fans.
On Saturday there will be a really good promotion going on at New Market. The Route 11 Chips mascot will make his official debut. Rt. 11 Chips will be sponsoring the Rebels home opener with Waynesboro.
However, the best part of that is that the Rt. 11 Chips mascot's name will be revealed at the game. Rt. 11 Chips have been running a contest to decide the mascot's name. When looking at the contest I saw some pretty creative names. Personally, Sports Editor Jeff Nations and I are hoping Chippy wins.
This is just some of the fun that can be had every night at a ballpark in the area, and on a hot summer's night what can be better than that.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd