The name Bob Wease has been synonymous with the Harrisonburg Turks and the entire Valley Baseball League for more than three decades.
But after 32 seasons as president and general manager of the Turks, Wease sold the team and is handing those titles over to another Valley League veteran, Gerald Harman.
Harman takes over ownership and front office duties immediately while Wease will stay on to coach the club for his 21st season in the dugout. Wease is stepping back in large part due to his wife, Teresa, dealing with vision issues that have made working in front of a computer difficult. Teresa, who Bob Wease called the “backbone of the Turks” handled many of the behind-the-scenes responsibilities.
“I’m 79 years old,” Bob Wease said. “We’ve won a bunch of championships and a bunch of pennants. We’ve been ranked in the top seven in the country four of five different times. But my wife has an eye problem, and it just comes a time where you feel like you have to move on.”
Harman, a native of the Shenandoah Valley who said he grew up cheering for the Turks’ rival Staunton Braves, has worked for several other Valley League teams including in Luray, Woodstock, Staunton, and Waynesboro.
He’s been active in recruiting players to the league, an aspect he and Wease agreed has become more difficult in recent years as more collegiate summer leagues pop up around the nation. That will be a big focus for the Turks moving forward as they try to keep the talent level and quality of play up.
More than 165 former Turks have played professional baseball and some of the top coaches in the NCAA have also come through Harrisonburg, including Virginia’s Brian O’Connor and Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan.
But at its heart, the Turks are a local club and fans may see some changes in the operation, but not many.
The gameday experience will be similar, though Harman said he’s hoping to add some new promotions at Veterans Memorial Park, including some with area baseball and softball teams ranging from youth leagues to high schools.
“I plan on hitting all the little leagues and get them out,” Harman said. “Hopefully to have a couple of little league teams here every game. I’ve thought about recognizing the high school players that make all-district and regions. Give them a little notoriety. We’re just trying to be big in the community. We want everybody to know, we’re the Harrisonburg Turks.”
Perhaps the biggest change may be in housing players. Wease paid to put players up in apartments for the summer, but Harman is hoping to rely on local host families, a typical route for many collegiate summer league teams.
“I’ll tell you why this is so exciting for me and also a little sad for me,” Harman said. “I feel like I’m taking Bob away, but that’s why I’m so happy he’s going to stick around and help me. It’s big shoes to fill, but I’ve jumped in them and it’s on me to keep the Turks at the top of the league.”