Wease Filling Turks’ Roster
Longtime Harrisonburg Skipper Eyes Valley League Pennant This Summer
By Greg Madia
HARRISONBURG – Bob Wease has his sights set on another pennant.
The longtime skipper of the Valley Baseball League’s Harrisonburg Turks is keeping that in mind as he prepares to finalize his roster for the 2017 season.“In 2011, we won the pennant and in 2012, we won the whole thing,” Wease said from his office last week. “In 2013, we won the pennant. In 2014, we wont the pennant. In 2015, we tied for the pennant and lost in a playoff game to Staunton. Then last year, it was disappointing because we had a three-game lead with four or five games left and we blew the pennant. “But in a period of six years, we’ve either won the pennant or the championship five times.”
The Valley League season doesn’t begin until early June when the Turks open at Staunton on June 2.
But, with college programs finishing their seasons within the next month or so, Wease said he has a good idea of what his team will look like when it starts play.
Right now, he has 32 players committed to suit up for the Turks this summer.
“The key to a good coach is the recruitment of good players,” Wease said. “I don’t hit. I don’t pitch. I don’t run.
“You have to have the contacts to get the good ball players.”
And Wease, who played in the VBL and Rockingham County Baseball League for nearly a decade beginning the 1960s and took over as manager of the Turks in 1990, knows just about anybody who might be able to send a player or two his way.
Wease has former players scattered across the country. Some play in the minors and others are coaches at Division I colleges looking to give their players a place to develop during the summer months.
“The coach at UNC-Greensboro, Link Jarrett, played for me,” Wease said. “And the coach at UC-Santa Barbara, Andy Checketts, he played for me, and then of course Brian O’Connor at Virginia, he played for me. Also, the coach at Wake Forest, Tom Walter, he played for me and the coach at Oklahoma City University, Keith Lytle, was one of my coaches back in 1991 and 1992.”
UNC-Greensboro is sending four players to the Turks – pitcher Michael Bates, second baseman Austin Embler, third baseman Trey Jacobs and pitcher Jack Maynard. Embler is hitting .341 with 25 RBIs and Maynard is 2-2 with 42 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings this season.
Walter and Lytle are each slated to send two players Wease’s way and Checketts will send one of his players across the country to play for Harrisonburg.
Wake Forest pitcher Carter Bach, who’s 2-0 with a 3.00 earned-run average in 12 appearances out of the bullpen for the Demon Deacons, could help the Turks’ pitching depth, Wease said.
“All the players in the Valley League are basically the same,” Wease continued. “They’re all DI players and they’re all good, but the key is the pitching and what’s happened in college now is that the coaches don’t want to send out the pitching until the end of the season to see how many innings they’ve pitched.
Wease said he’s still waiting for confirmation on if another Wake Forest pitcher, Donnie Sellers, and Troy University pitcher Corey Childress, who was a Valley League All Star in 2016, would rejoin the team.
Two other pitchers locked in for Wease are James Madison’s Tucker McCoy and Eric Yankey – both will play in their third seasons with the Turks. McCoy who played at Spotswood High School before going onto JMU, is 0-1 with a 10.91 ERA this season.
Other returning players include Oklahoma City University catcher Joe Lytle, University of Texas-San Antonio shortstop Bryan Arias and George Mason first baseman Greg Popatak. Popatak his a home run at Veterans Memorial Park earlier this month when George Mason knocked off JMU in a non-conference game.
“We’re going to have good speed and a bunch of guys that’s put the ball in play,” Wease said. “But it always looks good this time of year because your roster is full.”