“I don’t want to be sitting around this summer,” Bob Wease, the longtime president and skipper of the Valley Baseball League’s Harrisonburg Turks, said, “so I’m going to help.”
On Monday, Wease told the Daily News-Record he will serve as an assistant coach for the Broadway Bruins of the Rockingham County Baseball League. Later Monday, the league’s board of directors voted to play this summer, beginning on June 27.
In early April, the VBL opted to cancel its campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 also wiped out about 70 percent of the college baseball season.
“We’ll have a good summer hopefully,” Wease said, “and at least the kids will get to play some baseball. It’s not going to be like the Turks where we’re playing every night. It’ll be a couple of times of week and it’ll break up the week. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Wease, a 2013 RCBL Hall of Fame inductee, was the youngest player ever in the history of the league when he took the field for the Linville Patriots at 13 years old.
He said though a few RCBL squads and youth travel teams reached out to him about joining their coaching staffs for this year after learning the VBL’s season would be canceled, he decided to join Broadway because it marks a return to where his local baseball journey began.
The Broadway Bruins were formerly the Linville Patriots.
He had two playing stints for Linville, and even managed them, too, before managing the Harrisonburg Chics of the RCBL and eventually the Turks.
“The County League is the oldest league in the country with the exception of Major League Baseball,” Wease said, “so it’s an honor to just keep ‘em going and it’s a good league. It’s a good college league for some guys. It’s got good high school players and sometimes even some professionals. I just think it’s really good for the community to have teams like Clover Hill, Bridgewater and Elkton, and it’ll give the kids around here this summer something to do.
“I’m honored that a couple of teams did call and ask me to help out.”
Wease said some of his fondest memories come from his times playing or managing in the RCBL.
One of his Harrisonburg Chics teams featured four future Major League Baseball players on the roster at the same time, he said.
“We had Mike Hubbard, Rich Croushore, Larry Mitchell and Dana Allison,” Wease said. “They all ended up in the big leagues. How about that?”
The four were all products of James Madison.
Hubbard, a catcher, spent parts of three seasons with the Chicago Cubs and also had shorter stays with the Montreal Expos, Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers. Croushore pitched with the St. Louis Cardinals, Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox. Allison made his Major League debut with the Oakland Athletics and Mitchell broke in with the Philadelphia Phillies.
“And at one time, I had two teams, the Chics and the Turks,” Wease said. “But Hubbard, Mitchell and Croushore all started with the Chics, and I saw how good they were. Hubbard was better than the catcher we had for the Turks, so I jumped all of those boys up to the Turks.
“… But the County League has great, great history and great ballplayers. Tom Bocock, Clint Curry, Sparky Simmons.”
Those three reached Minor League Baseball.
And Wease said he expects the competition this summer in the RCBL to be increase, considering the number of nearby college players who would typically play in the VBL but have instead committed to play in the County League. JMU pitchers Liam McDonnell and Matthew Kleinfelter were originally slated to play for the Turks before the VBL season got scrapped, according to Wease, and now they will follow him and throw their innings for Broadway.
Wease said he’s also heard Dukes’ starter Justin Showalter will pitch for Bridgewater. Had the MLB Draft not been shortened from 40 rounds to five because of the coronavirus, Showalter had a great shot to be selected.
Ex-Spotswood star Cameron Irvine is going to play for Grottoes. Irvine began his college career at Virginia Tech, spent this past season with Gulf Coast State, and is now committed to play for High Point University.
“It’s going to be good for the County League to have this kind of ballplayer because it’ll be well worth it for people to come out and watch,” Wease added.
He said he’s eager for the season to get started.
“I’m 76 years old,” he said, “but I feel great. I do. I plan on throwing batting practice, hitting fungos and doing whatever I can to help those boys.”