Written By Greg Madia
Daily News Record
Saturday, June 5, 2021
Not all of the introductions have been made yet.
On a warm and breezy Wednesday evening this week at Veterans Memorial Park, the Harrisonburg Turks were just getting to know each other. It was their first practice in preparation for Sunday’s Valley Baseball League season-opening doubleheader at home against New Market.
The Turks will be home for the first three days at their new campaign, hosting Covington on Monday and Waynesboro on Tuesday.
Harrisonburg Turks third baseman Fredric
Walter, a native of France who plays his college
ball at Oklahoma City University, warms up
before practice on Wednesday at Veterans
“It’s interesting because I haven’t done this in a while,” James Madison outfielder Conor Hartigan said about meeting a large group of new teammates for the first time.
There was no VBL season last summer due to the coronavirus. So those who might’ve played in it, or another college summer league like it, either didn’t have anywhere to play or settled into more of a local or recreational league close to home.
“I’m just excited,” longtime Turks skipper Bob Wease said. “I’m excited for the players.”
Hartigan, a .364 hitter with five homers and 21 RBIs this past spring, is one of four who didn’t need to relocate to play for the Turks. JMU catcher Travis Reifsnider, infielder Bryce Safferwich and pitcher Liam McDonnell are all set to spend this summer with Wease and company, too.
Wease said Hartigan is probably going to hit third or fourth in the batting order and McDonnell is likely to start one of Sunday’s games on the mound.
The rest of the players on the roster, though, have flocked to Harrisonburg from further away. Oklahoma City University third baseman Fredric Walter is a native of Montigny, France, and is on the baseball journey of a lifetime.
He previously played for the French national team prior to venturing stateside to join the squad at Seminole State College and eventually transferring to Oklahoma City University. Walter said baseball isn’t overly popular in France but is growing and that Major League Baseball fans there pay close attention to the postseason and World Series.
“My baseball dreams started in France,” Walter said. “And then I wanted to move to the US and I didn’t have a specific location in mind, but I just wanted to be somewhere in the U.S. and I’ve moved around a little bit and I love it.”
Said Hartigan, “I didn’t even know that. I had no idea (Walter was a French national team member), but I guess I’ll meet him. “That’s amazing.”
Walter hit .283 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in the spring and is hoping to carry his success into the summer. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder was powerful cuts during batting practice on Wednesday.
“the position players we have are really, really, good,” Wease said.
Also from Oklahoma City University, outfielder Peyton Crispin is expected to be a fixture in the lineup for the Turks. Other position players Wease said he’s eager about are Wingate catcher Logan McNeely, Pittsburgh middle infielder Cameron Barto, and Rutgers first baseman/outfielder Jordan Sweeney, who slugged seven homers and drove in 29 runs for the Scarlet Knights this spring. He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Week in early April. McNeely will be a late arrival though, with Wingate still alive and playing for a Division II national championship.
Harrisonburg Turks pitcher Logan McClure,
a member of the West Virginia Tech program,
throws before a practice on Wednesday at
Veterans Memorial Park.
Additionally, the Turks will be without key members of their pitching staff to being the season, too.
Oregon right-hander Christian Ciuffetelli, Notre Dame right-hander Jackson Dennies, and Miami southpaw Mike Rosario are signed to pitch for Harrisonburg. But the Dukes, the Fighting Irish, and the Hurricanes will play in the NCAA Tournament beginning with regionals this weekend, so, Ciuffetelli, Dennies, and Rosario won’t arrive until their respective seasons conclude.
“The kid coming from Oregon is supposed to be really good,” Wease said, “and the kid from Miami is a big-time pitcher and hitter. I think we’re going to be OK after we get everyone in here.”
Until then, Wease and the players who are already in town will enjoy the return of the VBL. The Turks finished 18-24 in 2019, their last season.
“It’s nice to get the Valley League up and running again,” Hartigan said. “I grew up in Winchester by the Royals all my life and watched them play. That was a thing to do when I was younger, so it’s sweet having this backup and running just like every other league.
“And Harrisonburg is near and dear to my heart,” he continued. “I can’t get away from this place, that’s for sure. So, I’m excited to play for Bob Wease and some of the guys on my team, and we’re here now.”