06/23/2008 – Daily News Record
Posted 2008-06-23 But VBL See Too Many Problems Written By Dustin Dopirak Daily News Record HARRISONBURG – With 17 of his Luray Wranglers’ 44 games already played, Mike Bocock is still missing seven of the 28 players who were supposed to be on his roster. Bob Wease’s Harrisonburg Turks finally have everyone on board, but they’ll likely spend most of the season trying to make up for the 2-9 start they endured before getting to full strength. Late-player arrivals are a fact of life in collegiate summer baseball circuits like the Valley League, which begins play nearly a month before the last out of the NCAA baseball season – a season that won’t conclude until Tuesday or Wednesday at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Bocock and Wease, however, are among a group of VBL owners and managers hoping to lessen the effect of late arrivals in future years by pushing back the start of the season. "I think the biggest thing is we need to start the week after the [NCAA tournament] regionals are over," Bocock, the Luray manager, said Sunday. "That would take you to the weekend of the super regionals, but you’ve only got 16 teams still playing. If you have it the week before, you’ve got 64 teams out compared to 16 teams." In recent years, the VBL’s season always coincided with regional weekend, with this year’s May 31 opener coming on the same day as the beginning of the tournament. Several other college summer circuits begin play about the same time as the Valley, but two of the most prominent – the Cape Cod League and the Alaska Baseball League – have later start dates. Opening day at the Cape Cod League, considered the gold standard for such circuits, was June 15 this season. The later date is probably more necessary for the Cape than the Valley because it draws more players from Division I’s best teams. Necessary or not, though, having this many players out still hurts the quality of play in the VBL and changes the course of the season. "Some of your better teams are struggling because they’re just starting to get their players in," said Wease, the Turks’ owner/manager. "You see where we are, we’re next to the bottom. We’ve got to fight our way back and maybe become competitive at the end of the season. … I think we need to push it back until the weekend of super regionals." Sounds reasonable, right? The rub, however, is that the Valley League still needs to have the season finished by Aug. 15, commissioner Dave Biery said, according to National Alliance of Collegiate Summer Baseball rules. With 44 regular-season games and three rounds of playoffs, that’s not always easy. "You always have a problem at the end of the season because you have to get the players out of town," Biery said. "If you’re going to start later, you have to compress the season. It would have to be compressed and there are additional problems with that." One of those problems may soon be alleviated. Since adding the Fauquier Gators before last season, the VBL has had 11 teams, meaning one has to be off every night. Since that expansion, the league has been hoping to add a team in Lexington, but that hasn’t worked out because of various roadblocks. Biery said it’s increasingly likely that the league will have a team in place there next season, which could make a later start more feasible. "That will help, because, as you know, we have a team sitting every night," Biery said. "When we get 12 teams, that reduces the number of playing dates. I think we’re real close to that happening." But even if it does, that doesn’t guarantee a later start date. Several owners expressed contentment with the current situation and worried that pushing the season back would make it harder to make up rainouts even if a 12th team were added. "I’m not interested in pushing it back that late," Woodstock River Bandits owner Stu Richardson said. "I think it all balances out, and when you’re missing some of your players from these marquee programs, it allows you to give these other kids time." One move very few owners seem to be willing to make is shortening the season. Waynesboro owner Jim Critzer, who also said he supports moving back the season, said he would like to see the season cut from 44 games to somewhere between 36 and 40, but he doesn’t think that idea would go very far. "I think I’m singular on that," he said. Said New Market Rebels owner Bruce Alger: "I think we’ve gotten accustomed to the income and the money that that generates. We use that figure as a guide moving forward. Each team needs those 22 home games." Bocock and Wease know that, too, but they’re just asking for a little more time to get their teams ready. "I think it only makes sense," Bocock said. "All you gotta do is wait one week."