Around the Valley in a baseball daze: Promotion spreads love of summer league

07/15/2008 – The New Dominion.com

Story by Chris Graham freepress2@ntelos.net Jerry Carter had this wild idea. If you know Jerry Carter, you know I need to be a lot more specific than that. “So Dad says, Hey, you guys want to go down to Covington? And we’re thinking, Where the heck is Covington?” said his older daughter, Sabrina. “And then three hours later, We’re driving down to Covington,” her sister, Rebecca, chimed in. “We went there, we get a hat. This guy sold him his hat off his head. Dad wanted a hat, so the guy sells Dad a hat,” Sabrina said. “Dad’s been doing this his whole life. I’ve got to go to every ACC basketball arena. I’ve got to go to every Major League baseball stadium. I’m going to take (older brother) Chris to every stadium in the Northwest League,” Sabrina said. “So when we heard it, we’re like, Yeah, we’re in,” Rebecca said. And when Rebecca Carter said We’re in, she meant for the long haul. Rebecca, a rising second-year student at the University of Virginia, and Jerry, a Luray-based delivery-company owner, went to a baseball game in 11 different Valley League parks in 11 nights to start the 2008 summer season, and that was just to get things moving. The Carters are calling their summer adventure Around the Valley in 60 Days, and they’re inviting fans to take their lead and see as much good amateur baseball as they can before the curtain is closed on the ‘08 campaign. “Last night I got asked at least a half-dozen times, What are you trying to accomplish?” Jerry Carter told me on opening night in Waynesboro last month. He had also been at opening night in Harrisonburg the night before, and had seen 14 Turks fans who had been on hand for that one join him the next night in the River City. “I said, The teams work really hard to promote themselves. But nobody is promoting the league. We need people to talk about what we’re talking about. That’s the one thing that I’m trying to do,” said Carter, who maintains a blog (aroundthevalleyin60days.blogspot.com) to chronicle his adventures up and down the Valley League. No, check that – the blog is there to celebrate Valley League baseball in general and the people who make it possible in particular. “This was supposed to be a night off. These people were looking forward to a night off. They worked eight hours, maybe 10, and what are they going to do tonight? They’re going to make sure that you and I have a good time,” Carter said to me at our second Around the Valley get-together, at a Harrisonburg-Staunton game at John Moxie Memorial Stadium in the Queen City on Night #10 of 11 of his season-opening run. “Those are my heroes. Those are my all-stars. If I could have my own all-star team, when the kids go to Covington, all the volunteers would be there with them,” Carter said. “If they’re making $40,000, you’re saying, Hey, that’s part of the job. But they went to church that morning, that got up, they go out there, they run the grill, they do whatever. That’s the story that I’m trying to tell.” So it’s not really about getting fans to go to all 11 Valley League parks. Carter has been realistic about that from the get-go. “The biggest question we’ve been faced with the whole time is, What will you consider a success? I said, Everybody’s going to judge this differently. I’m going to judge this by, How many people have a card, and it’s half-full. Because that’s who I’m after,” Carter said. “The people who are hard-core fans, they’re already going to all the parks. They’re already doing this. I’m just giving them a chance to be celebrated for it. I’m going after the fan who might only go to one game or two games. If I can get them to go to six, then I’ve accomplished something.” Carter pitched the idea for the promotion to the league last year after that fateful trip with his daughters to Covington. He admits that it was a much better idea when gas was still in the area of $2.25 a gallon than it is now with gas at the $4-a-gallon mark. “I can’t ask people to drive to Covington or Haymarket with gas at $4 a gallon. But that was never the intent anyway,” Carter said. Team owners, by and large, understand well the intent behind what Carter is trying to do. “I think Jerry has undertaken a project that is going to be beneficial in the long run for our league. And he’s doing it at his own expense. He’s not getting a dime for it,” Staunton Braves co-owner Boyd Snyder said. “Some people said, Where’s the angle? There’s got to be an angle somewhere,” Waynesboro Generals owner Jim Critzer said. “I don’t think there is an angle. He just loves the game, and he loves the Valley League. He’s doing this to support the league as a whole. “Each team, whether they have a winning record this year or not, should be a winner because of Around the Valley in 60 Days,” Critzer said. “The promotion has been wonderful to the league. The exposure that it’s gotten through you, through Mike Shickman (at WSVA), this has been a real shot in the arm,” Harrisonburg Turks co-owner Teresa Wease said. “I think it’s great for the league because it will reach people who maybe go to one or two places, and now maybe some will go to more of them, maybe all of them. And they’ll see how diversified the league is in terms of fields and communities and the way they play and everything,” Valley League commissioner Dave Biery said. “It will add some league fans, where there are just team fans now. There will be league fans, and that will help us in promoting the league. I think it will help all the teams in the league,” Biery said. And if it’s helping Carter add another notch on his adventure belt, hey, everybody’s a winner. “It’s been three times the fun that I thought it would be. We knew going in that it would be an adventure. Working the hours that we work, it’s a little bit tougher. But we’ve been everywhere,” Carter said. “I never could have imagined the people that we’ve met along the way. It’s a situation where we’ve met somebody at every park. The owners have been great every place that we’ve went. The fans have been great. I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Carter said.


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