Players will get the chance to showcase their talents, hall of fame inductees will be recognized and fans will be treated to a day full of baseball at the Valley Baseball League All-Star Game held on Sunday in Harrisonburg.
The main event – the game itself – is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at James Madison University’s Veterans Memorial Park, and there figures to be plenty of action in the hours leading up the contest.
Batting practice and autograph/photograph sessions for young fans will take place from 3:10 p.m.-4:45 p.m., followed by the 60-yard dash contest at 4:50 p.m. and the home run derby at 5:20 p.m.
The 2018 VBL Hall of Fame class – which includes longtime Shenandoah University head coach Kevin Anderson – will be recognized in a pregame ceremony at 7 p.m. before the game’s first pitch.
Front Royal Cardinals skipper Zeke Mitchem, whose team was perched atop the North Division standings throughout the season’s first half, will manage the North squad in Sunday’s contest and called the event a “showcase of our league.”
“I’ve never partaken in the all-star game so I couldn’t tell you the ambiance of it or the type of feel it has,” Mitchem said, “but I would assume like any other all-star game it’s the best representing the best and we’re gonna go out there and have the guys play hard. It’s obviously an opportunity for guys to get in there and get showcased and that type of thing. The expectations are not to win at all costs by any means. It’s more of an exhibition game where guys get out there and showcase themselves in front of Valley League fans and whomever else is in the stands.”
Professional scouts figure to be in attendance for the game, which features 50 of the best players from the VBL’s North and South divisions.
Front Royal and New Market are the most well-represented teams from the North, as each team landed five players on the 25-man roster. Strasburg will send four players to the game, while Woodstock has three all-stars.
Representing the Cardinals are pitchers Rob Griswold – who has been a two-way standout for Front Royal – and Kobe Foster, catcher Christian Avant, shortstop Alex Briggs and first baseman Andrew Burden, who also will compete in the home run derby.
New Market’s all-stars include pitchers Trevin Eubanks and Jared Shemper, catcher Riley Wash, middle infielder Kobe Lopez and outfielder Andrew Eyster. Rebels outfielder Adan Fernandez will compete in the home run contest.
“All those guys that were sent to the all-star game have been really, really good for us,” New Market third-year manager Zac Cole said. “Those guys definitely deserve to be down there. It’s a great event for the league but it’s a great event for those guys too because it gets plenty of coverage, you got pro scouts there and then all the big publications always come and cover it. Those guys get a great opportunity to showcase themselves and I think they’re all draft eligible, if I’m not mistaken, next year, so it’s big for all of those guys to be able to go back to school and have a little bit of exposure. And it’s a fun event, so they’ll enjoy it.”
Strasburg will send pitcher Chris Henry, shortstop Austin Thompson, third baseman Anthony Pecora and outfielder Justin Hayes to the all-star game, while Woodstock pitcher Jacob Bradley and outfielders Clayton Jeffries and Conner Wilson will represent the River Bandits.
“Those three epitomize what we’re trying to get,” said Woodstock manager Greg Keaton, whose team had won only four games heading into Friday night’s contest against Strasburg. “I mean we’ve got other guys that fight, but those guys, they deserve their all-star credit. The definitely deserve it. They could’ve easily just packed it in with the kind of season we’re having, and not once (have they done that).”
The VBL’s third hall of fame class will be honored a half-hour prior to the all-star game. That group includes Anderson; former Rebel/Winchester Royal Rob Mummau, who went on to play nine seasons in the minor leagues; Thadius R. “Ted” Bosiak, who managed the Staunton Braves in the 1950s and again in the 70s; former Harrisonburg Turks manager and VBL president Bill Burkholder; and former Turk Billy Sample, who played nine years in the majors from 1978 to 1986.
Anderson, who wrapped up his 15th season at Shenandoah University this past spring, served as manager of the Winchester Royals for five seasons, guiding the team to a VBL championship in 1990. The Winchester native also managed New Market for two seasons.
Anderson is 466-199-1 in his 15 seasons at SU and 608-284-2 overall as a college head coach. Shenandoah has reached the NCAA Division III playoffs nine times in the past 10 years and advanced to the World Series in 2009 and 2010.