Shenandoah VBL teams to share division in ’16

The Shenandoah County rivalry in the Valley Baseball League is about to get even better.

The New Market Rebels are moving from the South Division to the North Division next summer, which will allow all three Shenandoah County teams to be in the same division and play each other more often.

New Market president Bruce Alger said that he and Strasburg general manager Jay Neal and Woodstock general manger Porky Bowman have been trying to make it happen for a few years. Aldie recently folded, dropping the league to 11 teams, so it was a perfect opportunity for New Market to make the move.

“We just feel like it’s beneficial not only to each individual organization, but also to Shenandoah County as a whole,” Alger said in a phone interview Wednesday. “With the way the Valley League is set up now, Shenandoah County is pretty much the bread basket of the Valley Baseball League. We’re right in the center not only for our organizations but also for the league. It gives us a very, very solid foundation moving forward.

“Not profit-wise but economically it will be a good base for us and for Valley League baseball as well, because we have the built in rivalries with our high schools.”

Alger said that he and Neal and Bowman are trying to work together to get a trophy and a sponsor and crown a Shenandoah County champion each year based on results in the regular season.

“We’re going to get together, and see what we can do in that regard to build fan interest and keep our rivalries friendly, and at the same time competitive as well,” Alger said. “Shenandoah County is the only county that has three organizations in the Valley Baseball League. We’re very proud of that.”

Strasburg won the league title last year, and Alger said that he was very happy for them and he hopes that all three organizations can build off of that momentum.

Alger said that all three organizations have a good relationship with each other.

“The three Shenandoah County organizations are ran very professionally,” Alger said. “We give each other our best shots on the field, but you’ll always find us hugging and shaking hands and wishing each other well before and after and even during games.”

Aldie announced its decision to fold in September, and at the same time Charles Town, West Virginia, decided to move to Purcellville. The Purcellville Cannons will play their games at Fireman’s Field in Purcellville.

“It’s a great baseball community,” VBL commissioner and president Don Lemish said. “It’s an excellent ballpark. I think they are going to have a better chance of raising money and being able to really field a ballclub there than they were in Charles Town. I think they found a lot of hurdles in Charles Town that they weren’t aware of in the beginning.”

There will be only 11 teams next year with six in the North and five in the South, which means that there will be one team off each day. The top four teams in each division make the playoffs just like in the past. Lemish said that with 11 teams the schedule, which is to be approved in a November meeting, will have to be longer than it was this past year.

The league had 11 teams two years ago before Charlottesville joined for the 2015 season. Lemish said that the league is happy with 11 teams, but he wouldn’t rule out expansion down the road.

“If there was a situation like the Charlottesville situation, and it obviously was going to be a good, strong franchise, they go about it the right way and so forth, I’m sure the board of directors would consider it,” Lemish said. “At the same time, expansion normally costs every other team in the league more money. One, it makes the MLB support pie smaller for each team. And two, it’s normally going to equate to more travel, possibly more games. I would say the league right now is more interested in holding where we are, certainly, rather than expanding.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com