There may not be any Valley Baseball League games this season but there’s still plenty for fans to watch on the VBL’s YouTube page.
The VBL canceled its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic on April 3. Graham Knight, the executive director of Isomer Media in Stephens City, saw it as an opportunity to inform more area residents about the Valley League. Knight’s company has helped broadcast VBL games for the last couple of years.
Knight has been airing podcasts and livestreams each night on the VBL YouTube page since April 12.
“As soon (as) the season was canceled, I got busy putting up podcasts,” Knight said. “Just trying to share the magic and the love of the game.”
Knight said he wasn’t a baseball fan, his love was hockey, until his son asked him if he could attend a camp in 2016 so that he could improve his baseball skills. Knight sent his son to a Winchester Royals camp and said he was amazed at how great the camp was.
“As soon as I saw what they were doing, it reminded me of a Little League camp that I grew up in, playing hockey,” Knight said. “They were just really dialed into it. It was an amazing week of baseball. They did sliding, they talked about catching and hitting and all kinds of stuff. It just blew my mind.”
Knight has worked behind the camera, directing and producing many shows for almost 25 years. He is an award-winning director, producer, writer, photographer and media consultant. He has directed more than 125 episodes of the TV series “America’s Most Wanted.”
He saw an opportunity to stream Valley League games and has a five-year contract with the league to stream them.
Knight said he just wanted to help the league grow and for more people to know about the league.
Amid the pandemic, Knight formed a team of people to help him out in producing Valley League content for fans. They began trying to have guests connected with the league be interviewed for podcasts. One of the people doing the interviews is Joe Harman, who is a play-by-play announcer for different teams in the league – mostly the Winchester Royals.
“We’ve been going forward with aiming these podcasts as a way to keep the Valley Baseball League in front of people and help people stay engaged,” Harman said. “And scratch the itch of missing baseball and sports in general, just talking about sports and baseball.”
They’ve had guests ranging from Strasburg General Manager Jay Neal and his sons Matt and Parker to former Baltimore Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo (a former VBL player), and University of Virginia baseball head coach Brian O’Connor.
Harman said he’s enjoyed the interviews.
“I’ve had a blast doing these interviews,” he said. “We’ve had some great conversations with some former players, former coaches. Brian O’Connor, he was a great interview that we were able to do, great guy, great conversations, real fun.”
Typically, the VBL season would have started last week, so Knight decided that during what would have been the season they would show games from last year. Knight and a couple of others talk about the game as they are showing it.
“We’re doing a 20/20 rewind season now,” Knight said. “It’s essentially, you know it’s 2020 – the year of our Lord 2020. But we’re calling it the 20/20 rewind season in that you know hindsight’s 20/20. So we’re trying to go back and look at the best games and provide a level of analysis that’s kind of over and above. Like you may have watched this game, but what you didn’t know when you watched it was the guy on second base was going to end up playing for the pros or get drafted by the (Houston) Astros, or could both pitch and hit or whatever.”
The games begin livestreaming each night at 7 p.m.
Typically, the VBL was off on Mondays, so Knight said each Monday they will have a podcast interview with someone connected to the Valley League.
Knight said that he has a team of about five or six people who are helping him put everything together. He said four of them are probably putting in close to 40 hours a week, between interviews, editing old games and trying to track down former players to interview.
Knight said one of his favorite interviews was the one with O’Connor.
“Brian (O’Connor) really put a bow on all of this,” Knight said. “Brian said you think of this as the baseball players’ internship. This is their chance to kind of come out and see what it’s like. They’re an intern in like a real league. We’re going to play them 40, maybe 50 games if they go to the playoffs or championships. They’re practically playing every night. It’s travel, it’s nonstop. They got to focus on their career.”
John Leonard, the VBL’s director of media relations, made a 2019 Valley League Annual that has a look back at the 2019 season. Knight said that they use that annual to figure out which game to show each night.
Knight said they are still hopeful to have podcasts with some other big name former Valley Leaguers such as New York Yankees’ Brett Gardner, Colorado Rockies’ Daniel Murphy and former Major Leaguer David Eckstein. Knight said that he would like to get some of the star players together with their former VBL coaches for a podcast.
“I mean, there’s some great baseball that’s been played here, “ Knight said. “But the relationships and the friendships – the kind of golden moments that exists between these people, that’s what really kind of shines when you peel the cover back and look inside the baseball. So I’m dying to kind of put those players together with their coaches and kind of do a nostalgic look back. Those are kind of the big what’s coming up things that we’re working on.”
Knight said the ultimate goal of the podcasts and livestreams is to remind people how great the league is and give them something to take their minds off everything that’s going on.
“For me, being able to go back and show the joy and the excitement that exists in the Valley League is great,” Knight said. “You got to remember I’m a hockey player, I hated baseball. But I feel like I’ve run around with this flag going ‘guys can you believe what’s happening in the Valley League? Do you believe we’ve had over 1,100 players come out of our league and go into the pros?’ ...It’s fun to kind of get excited about baseball and hopefully give people something else to think about besides some of the other stuff that’s going on right now.”
The Valley Baseball League YouTube page can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ybkgtjyx