Newly Minted Turks Debut

6/03/05 – Daily News Record

Harrisonburg Opens Tonight By Dustin Dopirak Daily News Record After 16 years of owning and three years of managing a team in the NCAA-sanctioned Valley Baseball League, Bob Wease is used to turnover. College players have only three years of summer league eligibility, and many of them spend that time in as many circuits as possible, hoping to gain maximum exposure. "If I was a college kid, that’s what I’d do," Wease, the Harrisonburg Turks’ boss, said this week. "I’d go to Virginia one year. I’d go to the Cape (Cape Cod League) one year and I’d probably go to Alaska (the Alaska Baseball League) one year." Massive turnover is the norm in the VBL, but this year’s roster change is still a bit more than the Turks are used to. Harrisonburg, which opens the season with a 7:30 p.m. game today at Winchester, will likely return just one player from last year’s 30-16 team that won the Southern Division regular-season title before being swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Covington Lumberjacks. Wease — entering his fourth season as the Turk’s manager — is still hoping that center-fielder Reggie Watson, who just completed his junior year at Indiana, will return to Harrisonburg after taking summer school classes. If he doesn’t, James Madison catcher Matt Sluder will be the only Turk coming back. That’s a bit of a shock for Wease and Sluder. At the end of last season, Wease said numerous players had expressed a desire to return. Sometime in the last 10 months, however, most of those player’s plans changed. "I actually am very surprised," Sluder said Thursday from his home in Richmond. "A lot of guys were telling Bob, you know, "Is it all right if I just come back next year?" And, of course, they’d be welcomed back. I’m really sad that we don’t have more returners… "It stings a little bit, but the type of players we had were very good and I’m sure they came across better opportunities. You’ve got to do what’s best for yourself when it comes to the summer." Regardless, Wease didn’t have any problems filling their places. The Turks’ roster is chock full of players from major Division I schools. "I think we’re going to be OK," Wease said. "We’re going to have a pretty balanced team and we’re going to have some big-time pitchers." As usual, Wease snared several players from the University of Indiana, where former Turk Bob Morgan is the head coach. Besides Watson, the Turks have four Hoosiers on the roster. The most accomplished is outfielder Zach Boswell, a left-hander who hit .359 with eight home runs and 53 RBI’s in 55 games for Indiana this spring. Right-handed pitcher Josh Lewis, who went 7-5 with a 4.03 earned run average, also opted for Harrisonburg, as did second baseman Josh Richardson (.321, 20 RBIs) and shortstop Steve Head (.206). Wease picked up several players from schools that are still advancing in the NCAA tournament. From Arizona (27-19), which earned a No. 2 seed in the Cal-State Fullerton regional, the Turks will get a stable of pitchers, including 6 foot-5, 190 pound right-hander Sean Jarrett (2-2, 5.55 ERA), left-hander Brad Mills (4.63 ERA, 10 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings) and Left Matt Baugh (5.91 ERA). Wildcats backup third baseman Jason Seefeld (.333, 9 RBIs) also wil play for Harrisonburg. From Florida State, which will host an NCAA regional as a top seed, the Turks will get second baseman Tony Thomas, Jr. (.244, 5 HR, 28 RBIs) and right-handed pitcher Stephen Ochs (502 ERA, 11 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings). After Ohio State, a No. 4 seed in Oregon State’s region, ends it season, 6-3, 200 pound left-handed pitcher Jeff Carroll (2-0, 5.17 ERA) will come to Harrisonburg. Wease didn’t restrict his recruiting to Division I. He also picked up several players from Yavapai Junior College in Prescott, Ariz., a pipline of talented Turks through the years, including Gered Mochizuki, who started at shortstop for Harrisonburg last season. This year’s Yavapai crop includes relief pitchers Chris Fessler and Cam Wheeler and left-handed starter Shawn Benson. And then Wease took a chance. Looking for a center fielder to replace Watson, Wease called Indiana for advice. They directed him to Frank Phillips Junior College in Borger, Texas, where he would find Calvin Lester, who stole 49 bases in 2004. Wease called the coaches at Frank Phillips and found out that Lester was already committed to play elsewhere this summer, but they told him about Lester’s fellow outfielder, Ricky Feliz. Feliz was named first-team all-conference in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference after finishing third in the league in RBIs (75), runs (72) and triples (10).