Lemish steps down as Valley Baseball League commissioner

Don Lemish

Donald Lemish has stepped down from his post as president and commissioner of the Valley Baseball League, he confirmed in a phone interview Monday afternoon.

Lemish, who officially took over the role as former VBL President Dave Biery’s successor following the 2012 season, made the move to retire in the middle of the 2017 campaign late last week.

Bruce Alger, formerly the league’s executive vice president, was promoted to VBL president in an emergency meeting of the league’s Board of Directors on Sunday, Alger said.

“It was time,” the 73-year-old Lemish said of his retirement. “I’ve been contemplating this for a couple years. Been working with Bruce so we could have a smooth transition at whatever time was appropriate and there were lots of things that Bruce needed to do, probably, to get ready for it. He’s ready for it and will do a fine job. My own personal schedule was such that it just became time.”

Lemish said he owns homes in Virginia and Florida and has spent more time at the latter in recent years, adding that it’s “not really prudent” to attempt to run the Valley League on a full-time basis from the Sunshine State.

Lemish became “more anxious” about the prospect of retirement from his VBL post at the start of this season, he said. Though he initially had thoughts of waiting until September to step down, he felt doing so midseason would allow Alger to become better acclimated to his new role more easily.

“What people don’t understand is with the commissioner’s job and the work I do … there is more work out of season than there is in season,” Lemish said. “This creates an opportunity, I think, for my successor, which is Bruce, really to get his feet wet and to ease into it a bit.”

Lemish’s retirement marks the end of his six-year tenure in the Valley Baseball League, which began when he served as assistant to the president under Biery during the final year of Biery’s 27-year run as league president in 2012.

Lemish said that during his time as VBL president, he worked to make the league more visible on a national scale. Most recently, Lemish secured funding from Major League Baseball for the Valley League to take part in the Southern Collegiate Showcase all-star event scheduled for July 15-16 in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

Lemish’s tenure in the VBL has also included an apparel contract with ’47 Brand, the creation of the league’s Hall of Fame and the reestablishment of a Charlottesville team, along with the “sharpening of policies, procedures and administrative aspects of the league,” he said.

“The Valley Baseball League is about the young men that we bring in here,” said Lemish, a former athletic director at James Madison University and former commissioner of the Rockingham County Baseball League.

“Our whole purpose is to give them an opportunity to showcase their talents and hopefully be able to move on at some point to the next level of professional baseball. And I think everything we do we have to keep that in mind, that that’s our whole purpose, and I think we do a real good job of that. No doubt that will all move along in very good shape in the future.”

Lemish said he still plans to spend his summers in Virginia and will frequent Valley League games in the future.

“I’ll still be going to Valley League games every night. The difference is I can relax and enjoy it and not look at it as I’ve gotta sit there like a person that can’t have any expression or anything else watching baseball games,” Lemish said with a laugh.

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