A Simple Goal

Wease Hopes To Keep Everyone Happy

By MATT JONES
Daily News Record

HARRISONBURG – Two hours before his team faced Aldie this week, Harrisonburg Turks manager Bob Wease sat on the dugout bench at Veterans Memorial Park and said his main goal in Sunday night’s Valley League All-Star Game isn’t to win.The biggest challenge, he said, is to make sure each of the 31 all-stars has equal playing time.“It’s trying to sit over here and get every player in where they’re happy,” Wease said.

As Wease prepares to manage the South team in Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. game at Veterans Memorial Park, his Turks sit in first place in the South Division.

Not surprisingly, given the team’s success, seven Harrisonburg players will take the field Sunday night, making the 2013 squad one of Wease’s best-represented groups. Keeping the rest of the all-star roster happy, however, takes careful planning.

“I don’t want anybody to say, ‘Bob didn’t play my guy but two innings or something,’” Wease said. “It’s going to be split right down the middle.”

The Turks’ All-Stars – pitchers Justin Camp (Auburn) and Chris Pike (Fordham), infielders Mike Warren (Texas-San Antonio), Andy Perez (Duke), Thomas Smith (Georgia Tech) and R.J. Perucki (Texas-San Antonio) and outfielder Eric Kalbfleisch (North Carolina-Greensboro) – will get the same playing time as the rest of the all-stars. Wease said the 19 position players each will play 4½ innings and the 12 pitchers will get an inning each, with the exception being if a pitcher walks a batter or looks shaky.

“The last thing you want over here is 20 ballplayers, you get to the seventh inning and none of them have been in the ballgame,” Wease said. “Everybody plays equally.”

Wease said he plans to start most of his seven Turks but wants to have a representative from each of the other five South Division teams on the field. This much Wease knows: Camp will start on the mound, Warren will DH and either Smith or Perucki will start at third base.

Camp has been highly effective this summer. With a mid-90 mph fastball and a nice changeup, the 6-foot-1, 224-pound right-hander ranks near the top in every statistical category, including ERA (1.18).

“I did a little bit of closing in school this year,” Camp said, exposing his scar from his 2011 Tommy John surgery as he leaned against a fence. “I’m going to take a little bit from that and basically come out and give it everything I got for one inning. Leave it all out there and throw as hard as I can. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Harrisonburg’s other pitching representative, Pike, serves as one of the Turks’ closers. After nailing down the save in last season’s VBL title game against Winchester (3 2/3 innings, no runs), Pike has continued his success this season.

“We’ve been blowing guys out where it’s not even save opportunities, so when those opportunities come it’s given me a lot more adrenaline to go out there,” Pike said. “Those few chances that I do get, it has given me extra motivation to go out there and do the best I can.”

The Turks’ four infield representatives, three of whom are hitting .300 or above, are a big reason why Wease’s team was 19-7 through Thursday night. Perez in particular is having a strong first half, hitting .306 with seven doubles and 18 steals heading into Friday night.

“I’ve seen all the second basemen in the South, and I’ve seen them all in the North also,” Wease said. “Andy Perez is the best second baseman in the Valley League. He can do it all.”

Perez’s base stealing is a big part of his game. As a sophomore at Duke, he swiped 18 bases in 53 games. For the Turks, he led the Valley through Thursday’s games with 18 in 26 games.

“I’m actively looking,” Perez said. “At school, our coach gives us the green light; that’s another thing I’m working on [this summer]. Getting out there, seeing what kind of tendencies other pitchers have, picking up on little things to help me become a better base stealer.”

Smith, a 2012 All-Star, and Perucki will share the third base duties on Sunday. Perucki, who played third base as a junior at Texas-San Antonio, welcomes the chance to play in the All-Star Game.

“I don’t know if I did anything special, I just try and play the game as best as I can,” Perucki said. “Whatever happens, happens. It feels good knowing you’re the best in the league. I know [Harrisonburg] has six or seven on the team, so it’ll be fun playing with them again.”

The Turks’ top two hitters, Warren (.351) and Kalbfleisch (.322), both rank in the top-15 in batting average in the first half through Thursday. Sunday night’s game represents an opportunity to build their name beyond this summer.

“A few scouts show up, so it’ll be cool to play in front of them,” Warren said. “That’s one of the things I’m excited about.”

The team’s success on the field comes as no surprise to Wease. With what Wease calls “the best players in the Valley League,” Harrisonburg is parlaying its off-the-field cohesiveness with a talented group of players.

“You can have good talent, but talent doesn’t always win,” Perucki, a three-year Turks veteran said. “You have to have chemistry. When I first got here, this is one of the first times I’ve been on a team where everything has just clicked from day one.”

Camp said the Turks routinely socialize outside of baseball, which translates to wins on the field.

“When you get a group of guys that can play together and get along together and not have any problems within the team, it definitely is easier to play,” Camp said. “There’s a lot of talent on this team, but us being close really helps put everything together.”

VBL ALL-STAR GAME Schedule

*  Gates Open 3:00 p.m.
*  60-yard Dash Contest:  4:50 p.m.
*  Home Run Derby:  5:20 p.m.
*  Game Time:  7:30 p.m.

DATA
*  Where: JMU Veterans Memorial Park
*  Tickets $5.00 adults  $3.00 senior citizens $3.00 children 12 and under


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