Turks Boast Well-Rounded Roster To Open Valley League Season
Take a look up and down the Harrisonburg Turks’ roster, and it’s littered with Division I talent — many of which hail from perennial baseball powers.
Elsewhere in the league, rosters are full of Division II and III players and junior college talent. That’s not to say the league isn’t as strong, but 10 years ago, teams were full of All-American-type talent, longtime Turks head coach Bob Wease said.
But in a time when it’s becoming harder to get high-level talent in the Valley League, how is Wease still recruiting top-level talent? Relationships.
Wease has been around a plethora of players in his time with the Turks since he took over the team in 1990, and many have become college coaches. As Wease sat in his office, surrounded by Turks team photos and other baseball memorabilia, he ran through the all-star cast of coaches that played for him.
Virginia’s Brian O’Connor, Florida State’s Link Jarrett, and Wake Forest’s Tom Walter are just a few of the names that Wease continued to list.
This year, those relationships came into play as Harrisonburg will boast three players from No. 1 Wake Forest, two from No. 9 Miami, one from No. 13 Auburn, and a trio from Florida State, which missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977.
“The nicest thing about owning the Turks is to have a guy from 30 years ago who says, ‘Hey Bob, I just want to thank you for a great summer,'” Wease said. “That means everything. … They’ve played for me and they know that I’m going to take care of the players.”
The six players from the three nationally-ranked teams won’t be with Harrisonburg when it opens its season on Thursday night at the Woodstock River Bandits, but the Turks will still be deep.
Of Harrisonburg’s 33 players on the roster, 29 are from Division I institutions, but a pair of non-DI players caught Wease’s eye.
Wease was excited about two NAIA Oklahoma City University hitters: Aiden Alexander and Trent Kiraly.
Alexander was a speed threat with 15 stolen bases, while Kiraly led the team with a .395 batting average with 14 doubles, 15 home runs, and 62 RBIs.
In addition to those two, Wease pointed out Florida State two-way player Ben Barrett, who led the Seminoles’ reserves with a .359 batting average in 21 games with seven doubles, a triple, one home run, and 21 RBIs.
But once the Turks return to full strength when the NCAA Tournament team players arrive in Harrisonburg, Wease said his team would go to another level.
“I think our players are going to be pretty good this year,” Wease said. “Once we get all our players in, I think we’re going to be pretty good. … It looks pretty good doggone good, to be honest with you.”
The Turks also have some Sun Belt Conference flavor, with three James Madison pitchers — Casey Smith, Sean Culkin, and Jason Cheifetz — in addition to four from South Alabama, a trio of players from Marshall, and one from Georgia Southern.
This season marks the first time since Wease took over as team president and general manager in 1990 that someone else will be running the operations side of the Turks as longtime Valley League supporter Gerald Harman took control of the team in the offseason.
Wease is still in his on-field role and is assisting Harman with the transition this summer. But will this be the last year Wease coaches the Turks? Maybe, maybe not.
“I don’t know, just play it by ear one year at a time,” Wease said. “I’m 80 years old. I’ve been around for 35 years, been around the Valley League since 1960. That’s a long time.”