Summer Baseball Comes To Haymarket

1/25/05 – Potomac News

Summer Baseball Comes To Haymarket By KEITH McMILLAN Valley League baseball is coming to Haymarket looking for what it couldn’t find in Loudoun County. The college-level wooden bat summer league expanded to 10 teams last season, but the brand-new Loudoun Rangers were a league-worst 15-28 playing at a rural field. On Monday, the league announced it was moving the Rangers to Haymarket and renaming them the Battle Cats, hoping to match success on the field with support from the community. League president Dave Biery said the accessibility of Battlefield High School, where the Cats will play their home games, and the population base in the area made Northwestern Prince William County a desirable site. "I think the move to Haymarket is just a wonderful move," said Biery, whose league is one of a handful around the country that uses current college players to stock its rosters. "First of all, it’s very easy to get there off the interstate." Two of the Battle Cats’ division opponents, Front Royal and Winchester, will hail from just west on I-66. Luray and New Market round out the Northern Division. Biery said he visited the Haymarket area and was impressed at the number of residential neighborhoods that were in walking distance of the school. The Loudoun team played its only season at Mickie Gordon Memorial Park, which is located along the rural end of Route 50 near Middleburg. "It was out in the countryside," Biery said. "There was no population base." Haymarket and the surrounding area, on the other hand, is growing rapidly but still aiming to keep the small-town feel. That’s something Battle Cats general manager Pat Malone, approved last week as the new majority owner of the team as well, pointed out in a release. "Prince William County leads the nation in attracting new businesses, and I can certainly see why with the tremendous response we’ve received in Haymarket," Malone said. The Valley Baseball League goes back more than four decades, according to Biery. It was long an eight-team league until the Woodstock River Bandits joined the Loudoun franchise in a 2004 expansion. Teams from Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro and Covington fill out the league’s Southern Division. Biery said some rivalries have formed over the years, particularly between Winchester and Front Royal, and Luray and New Market. Biery said each team is responsible for recruiting its own players, with the pool restricted to those who have already played in college and still have eligibility remaining. The league, like others of its kind, including the Cape Cod League and the Alaskan Baseball League, is NCAA-sanctioned and sponsored by Major League Baseball. Hylton graduate Phillip Beall, a Virginia Tech sophomore at the time, made 31 starts and hit .304 for the Rangers last season. U.Va.’s Matt Street, Georgetown’s Brooks Parker and two Florida State players also dotted the Loudtted the Loudoun roster last summer. The Battle Cats are planning to have Prince William Board of Supervisors chairman Sean Connaughton throw out the first pitch on opening night, June 4, at Battlefield. That night will also be "American Legion Night." On the web: