2013 in Review: A Conversation with Bob Wease (Part 1)
Turks staff writer Chase Kiddy sits down to discuss the season in review with Turks head coach Bob Wease. In the first segment, they cover what made this summer’s team so good, as well as the future of some of the players from the 2013 squad.
Chase Kiddy: How many seasons you been doing this now, Bob?
Bob Wease: How long have I owned the Turks? 20 years. But I didn’t coach them the first 12 years.
CK: You bought the organization when? 1992?
CK: So you’ve owned the team longer than I’ve lived.
BW: Yeah. Really? Hot dog!
CK: By a couple of months, yeah. So 12 years coaching, where does this season rank up there?
BW: Where does it rank? Well, we’ve had good teams before. We won the thing, 91, 1992, I can’t even remember. Six, seven times since I’ve been doing it. We’ve won the southern division three or four times; it seems like we always finish a game out of first or better. The last three years, we’ve won the pennant. 34-12 in 2011, something like that. In 2012 we finished one game behind Waynesboro in the south, but we ended up winning the whole thing; that year we finished 34-12, something like that. This year, we ended up 32-12 in the regular season, ranked 7th in the country [at the end of the regular season]. In 2011, we ranked as high as fourth in the country; last year, as high as 8th in the country… We’ve won 101 ball games in the last three years. That’s better than anybody in the whole Valley League. Winning 33 ball games a year? That’s pretty good. To be ranked nationally, anywhere, is pretty doggone good. There’s like 65 collegiate leagues across the country and to be ranked 7th is pretty doggone good.
CK: What was it exactly that made this team so good?
BW: It’s simply because we didn’t have any individual players this year. Everybody was a team player, if you know what I’m talking about.
CK: Mhmm. I played sports once upon a time. I know exactly the sort of thing that you’re talking about.
BW: Everybody pulled for everybody. If you asked a kid to bunt, it didn’t matter if he had four hits, he was gonna bunt the ball for you down the third base line or the first base line or whatever and move the runner for you. It was just one hell of a team effort the whole year, I mean before we’ve had better ball players but we’ve had guys who were “me” ball players, meaning the ball player. This year, we had “we” ball players. It was just a great team effort.
CK: Guys like RJ [Perucki] and [Thomas] Smith have been here multiple years. I know RJ can’t come back next year; I didn’t get the chance to talk to Smith. What do you think guys like them brought to the team, and what do you think their legacy will be?
BW: To me, both those guys were team players. They had a good summer. Smitty’s been here two years, he’s hit over .300 both years. Smitty’s the kind of player you have to watch and watch. When you first watch him, he doesn’t run that well – he’s not slow, don’t get me wrong. He’s probably a 6.9 runner. But he just makes the plays. He’s not flashy like RJ is. RJ is the flashy kind of ball player. When you first see him–
BW: Hollywood, oh my God! This guy can really play. But all Smitty does is absolutely makes the play. He’ll play at the next level. So will RJ. That’s the difference between those two players. RJ is just a little flashier.
CK: You have way more contacts than me, around the baseball world, obviously. So have you talked to any scouts?
BW: I’ve talked to scouts about both of them. The Baltimore Orioles called me on Thomas Smith about two weeks ago. They were looking at his errors. I think he had two errors between Georgia Tech and the Valley League season this summer.
CK: That’s insane.
BW: And that’s in like 100 ball games. Pretty doggone good.
CK: Have you talked to scouts since the end of the season about any of the other 2013 players?
BW: I’ve talked to several scouts about a lot of our players. RJ, Taylor Nichols. I’ve talked to 4 or 5 different scouts about him. Mike Warren, scouts call about him. Eric Kalbfleisch, several called about him. He’s another one that will play at the next level. I think he was third in the Valley League in hits. He will be back next season if he doesn’t get drafted.
BW: Smitty is comin’ back if he doesn’t get drafted. Taylor’s comin’ back. We’ll have another good ball club if all these guys come back like they say they are. Thomas Spitz is another one. He’s got a chance to play at the next level. He runs, but the thing that makes him so good, he’s got that cannon for an arm. If he ever learns how to put it in play, just put the bat on the ball and run, not hit fly balls but ground balls, he’s gonna go a long ways.
CK: I know we had a lot of people from last year’s team but maybe could have come back this year, but for whatever reason, stuff just happened.
BW: We had Dillon Ortman who was coming back, but he had a temp. contract in the Cape. The Cape kept him; Dillon’s a great ball player.
CK: Yeah, no surprises there.
BW: Shawn O’Neill was the same way. Was here last year, had a great year for us, won the [2012 championship] for us. Went to the Cape with a temp contract, and they liked him so well they kept him too. Chris Pike, another great pitcher that will play at the next level, hurt his back and had to go home.
CK: Didn’t we have, I’m trying to remember from last year, guys like Jordan Priddle that never got here at all?
BW: Jordan was coming this year, but he hurt his arm. He had to have Tommy John surgery. But he was coming back as well. But we have, I think it’s 21 or 22 ball players that can come back next year, and every one of them said if they don’t get drafted, they want to come back next summer.
CK: That’s incredible. To have that many returners.
BW: Well, we haven’t gotten them yet; that’s what they say now. But here’s what happens. They go back to school, the Cape looks at the Harrisonburg Turks and thinks, ‘My God, this kid had a great year.’
CK: And they pillage you.
BW: And they start stealin’ my ball players. It happens every year.
CK: How many do you lose to the Cape every summer, from the previous summer?
BW: 6 or 7, every year. Every year.
CK: I don’t know if that’s more depressing or impressive.
BW: Well, it’s impressive in a way. They say, I don’t necessarily believe this, but they say the Cape is the premiere league in the whole country. And probably one of the reasons for that is the Cape does get better pitching. Where a Valley League team will have 2 or 3 really, really good pitchers — like we had Justin Camp and Connor Kaden, both of whom said they’re coming back… the Cape will look at Connor and Justin and try to get both of them up there. Now, Connor’s told me that it doesn’t matter. He won’t go up there.
CK: He wants to do the Turks’ dance before the game out in front of the dugout. He can’t do that up in the Cape.
BW: That’s right. But both of them said they’re coming back. Garrett Ford said he’s coming back. Eric is coming back. All these guys have told me they’re coming back. We’ll have to wait and see.
CK: What ends up happening, we’ll have to watch for. But I think it speaks to the quality of the team and the organization that you have so many players that want to come back.
BW: Well what that tells me is that — we were ranked seventh in the country, we had three or four teams in the Cape ranked below us — that tells me the Turks could play in the Cape.
CK: Sure. We’d just need teleportation.
BW: Oh yeah. I wish we could play the Cape teams, I really do. But like I say, it’s the pitching depth. Every day in the Cape, you’re seeing, from around the country, top-notch pitchers. Now, the players, they’re basically the same.
CK: It seems to me, personally, like the Cape has become a little bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. People always talk about… it’s almost like SEC football. People talk about how good they are, all the time. Then people start to believe it, the players themselves start to believe it. And before you know it, whether they were the best or not, they start consistently getting the best pitchers, all based off a reputation that may have originally been largely overrated.
BW: Well, you have the beach. If you’re a young guy, a good-looking athlete, you got chicks running all over the place. Where are you gonna go? The Shenandoah Valley, or are you going up to the Cape and the beach and the girls.
CK: Hmm. I know a few players that might come back to the Valley. All these JMU girls here, that might give them a good fight.
BW: That’s right, JMU is ranked something like 5th in the country by Playboy in pretty girls, aren’t they?
CK: There’s something the Cape doesn’t have.
Come back this weekend to find the second installment in the series, where Bob and Chase reflect on Harrisonburg’s playoff elimination and whether or not the 2013 season was a success.