VBL names Stroop manager of year

Nearly a week after guiding the Strasburg Express to its first Valley Baseball League championship, Stephanos Stroop has been named the league’s top manager.

Stroop was announced Wednesday as the recipient of the 2015 Maynard “Mo” Weber Manager of the Year award in a vote of Valley League directors.

In his first season as manager of the Express, Stroop led the team to a 21-21 record in the regular season and the second seed in the North Division playoffs. Strasburg earned a 2-1 series victory over the Staunton Braves in the best-of-three championship series for the Lineweaver Cup last week, the first VBL title for the Express in its five-year history.

“It’s a huge honor,” Stroop said Wednesday. “More than anything it’s just a reflection on our franchise and the season we had. We had a good group of kids who were obviously good players but, more than anything, were good people, and that’s what we’re most proud of. And then I had great assistant coaches. … I’m getting the award – more than anything it’s just a reflection on the success our franchise had this year and that’s what I’m happiest about.”

Stroop described the Express’ trip to the top of the VBL as a “roller coaster.” Strasburg began the season on a hot streak and maintained the lead in the North Division for most of the first half of the season. A midseason slump – during which Strasburg lost 11 of 13 games – dropped the Express out of the division lead before the team recovered and made the championship push.

After series victories over Aldie and Front Royal vaulted Strasburg to its second VBL championship appearance in three years, the Express rallied from late deficits against the Braves in games one and three to earn the Lineweaver Cup.

“The word I use to describe our kids is even-keeled. Never too high, never too low, which is really the way you have to be to be successful in baseball because it’s a game predicated around failure,” Stroop said. “If you focus on the negative and focus on the failure it’s only going to eat you up. It’s just a reflection of how even-keeled and resilient our kids are.”

The 2015 season marked Stroop’s second with the Strasburg Express. He served as an assistant coach for the first half of last year under former manager Ben Moore, a season which saw the Express finish sixth in the league race.

Stroop said the “kind heartedness and generosity” of the people in the community is what has stood out the most in his two seasons with Strasburg.

“We have probably the most volunteers in the Valley League and that’s just a reflection of the support from the community and our ownership,” he said. “It’s a small franchise but we’re very tight knit. It’s just nice to see people being rewarded and getting recognition and success who deserve it.”

Stroop, a 2010 graduate of Claremont McKenna College in California, serves as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for St. Catharine (Kentucky) College. He is also an associate scout for the Atlanta Braves, according to a news release from the VBL, and previously interned in the front office for the Washington Nationals.

Stroop’s prior coaching assignments included a two-year stint as an assistant coach at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., but his role with the Express this summer was his first as a head coach.

“It forced me to view the game in a different way,” Stroop said. “I learned about the game but I learned a lot about myself as well.”

The Maynard “Mo” Weber Coach of the Year award was established in 2008. Weber, a baseball coach for more than 65 years, served as an assistant with the New Market Rebels for 17 seasons before retiring in 2010 at the age of 87.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com