Wednesday's announcement that a new Valley Baseball League team would be coming to Charlottesville next summer has stirred up quite a bit of excitement throughout the league.
It's hard to blame those with a heavy investment in the inner workings of the VBL for being so ecstatic about the league's newest addition -- Charlottesville is a very good get for the entire league for a variety of reasons.
It starts with the location. Charlottesville is quickly becoming a hotbed for college baseball, as the success of the University of Virginia's baseball team has lit a fire under fans in that area over the last decade as head coach Brian O'Connor has built that program into a national powerhouse.
The Cavaliers are coming off their best season in the history of the program, in which they advanced all of the way to the College World Series championship before eventually falling in the best-of-three series against Vanderbilt just a few weeks ago. This past season has firmly entrenched U.Va. on the map of the nation's elite college baseball programs -- if it wasn't there already -- and there is bound to be a positive trickle down effect for the city of Charlottesville, which could quickly become the Valley League's premier market. As New Market Rebels team president and VBL executive Bruce Alger said on Wednesday, "The timing could not be better for [Charlottesville] joining us."
And it will help that O'Connor -- probably the biggest baseball name in Charlottesville right now -- has been raving about the Valley League and is giving Charlottesville Community Baseball Inc. -- the ownership group of the newest VBL franchise -- his full support.
O'Connor is a former Valley Leaguer who played in the league for a season after his freshman year at Creighton, and it's a tremendous boost to the league to have him in its corner. O'Connor's help in returning the VBL to Charlottesville made a tremendous impression on Valley League president Donald Lemish and Charlottesville team general manager Joe Koshansky.
"He's been a big help and he's created a baseball town here in Charlottesville," Koshansky said on Wednesday.
Lemish held similar praise for Charlottesville Community Baseball Inc., a group that includes Koshansky and team president Greg Allen, who both have a strong feel for the inner workings of a baseball program, another bonus for the Valley League.
Koshansky -- also a former Valley Leaguer -- played baseball for U.Va. from 2000 to 2004 and spent eight professional seasons with the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants organizations. Allen owns a piece of the Houston Astros and currently sits on the team's board of directors.
Lemish called Charlottesville's ownership a "top-flight group from top to bottom," and Alger said they were "very professional and are doing this for all the right reasons."
Koshansky holds a strong fondness for the city of Charlottesville, and he mentioned repeatedly on Wednesday about how important the new team will be for a community that has become hungry for good, competitive baseball. But the work of Charlottesville Community Baseball Inc., won't be limited to the operation of its new Valley League team.
The organization, which was created as a part of the new Valley League venture, is also striving to make an impact on the area's youth by promoting the sport through organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Koshansky said.
And of course, Charlottesville's addition will regain some much-needed balance for the Valley League, which has been operating under an 11-team format this season. Assuming the things remain as is for next summer, the VBL will return to its 12-team, two-division system. That means the league can go back to the 44-game schedule in which teams are playing every day, and the natural North/South division system will return with Charlottesville fitting in nicely in the South Division.
Any way you slice it, Charlottesville's return to the Valley League is fantastic for the league and it will be exciting to see what the future holds in store for the VBL starting next summer.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org