04/06/2010 – Daily News Record
Written By Mike Barber Daily News Record
HARRISONBURG – This offseason, Harrisonburg Turks owner/manager Bob Wease assembled what he called the best outfield he would have ever had in the Valley League. Too bad he’ll never see them together on a baseball field.
Arizona freshman Joey Rickard will work with Team USA’s summer baseball program instead of playing for the Turks, Wease said Monday.
Richmond sophomore outfielder Phil Ruzbarsky injured his left knee Sunday and will spend the summer rehabbing.
Wingate sophomore Dodson McPherson will remain in North Carolina to deal with a personal family situation, though he could join the Turks later in the summer, Wease said Monday.
A pair of outfielders from Georgia Tech also recently told Wease they would not be in Harrisonburg this summer, opting to stay closer to home.
And so the 66-year-old Wease goes into what could be his final year managing the Turks the way he has so many seasons before – with an uncertain roster and a late scramble for players. Welcome to life in the Valley League, Wease says.
“If you start trying to get all those All-Americans, like Joey Rickard, if he’s going to the USA team, he’s got to be pretty good,” Wease said. “But you don’t have anything.”
Well, it’s not quite that bleak. Wease thinks his middle infielders will be the strength of the team and he has a pair of solid starting pitchers in Michigan State’s Kurt Wunderlich and Louisiana-Monroe’s Drew Granier, who pitched for Harrisonburg last summer.
And Wease is still confident he can add some outfielders before the Turks open their season June 3 against New Market, playing their games at the new Veterans Memorial Park.
Much like Wease’s day job – he owns a used car dealership in Harrisonburg – recruiting ballplayers requires a combination of personal touch and persistent grinding. As Wease did an interview at the dealership Monday about the upcoming season, long-time Florida State coach Mike Martin called him back – but with bad news.
Seminoles sophomore outfielder James Ramsey will be playing his summer ball in the Alaska League. Still, Wease was unfazed.
“Outfield is the easiest place in the world to replace,” Wease said. “We just go right back to the drawing board.”
Rickard is hitting .367 with four runs and a team-best 34 RBIs. Ruzbarsky was hitting .371 with two home runs and 15 RBIs through 22 games before suffering the injury.
McPherson leads Wingate with a .402 average and 36 RBIs and has two home runs.
“It was going to be real good,” Wease said. “It would have been the best outfield I ever had here.”
Still, Wease’s outfield cupboard isn’t bare, even if he can’t add any more players.
Pima Community College’s Shaun Cooper is back from last year’s Turks team, as is Arizona’s Bobby Brown. If Auburn freshman Patrick Savage proves to be a viable everyday first baseman, Brown will play with Cooper in the outfield.
The third spot could be manned by Wake Forest’s Mac Williamson. Williamson is a pitcher who suffered an arm injury this season and is now playing in the outfield.
Catcher Tyler Carpenter (Texas-San Antonio) and Terrance Jackson (Oklahoma City) could also be outfield options.
Still, after back-to-back sub-.500 seasons, Wease laughed when asked if the owner side of him thought the manager side should be on the hot seat.
“Last year we were right in the middle of that thing till the last week,” said Wease, who is 213-136 as skipper. “We went 2-7. We lost four or five players. That hurt us.”
But Wease said there is a chance this could be his final season in the Turks’ dugout. A recent knee injury has made the physical part of leading the team taxing, forcing Wease to consider retirement.
“I’ve thought about it,” Wease, a former James Madison player, said. “I really have. Potentially, it may be.”
Of course, Wease knows walking away from the field won’t be easy. After all, he kept suiting up the Rockingham County Baseball League until he was 48.
“It was hard to just quit,” Wease said. “I liked the excitement.”
Mike Barber Assistant Sports Editor Sports Department firstname.lastname@example.org 540-574-6296