Harrisonburg Turks

Member of the Valley Baseball League and NACSB.

  • 1955 VBL Champions
  • 1958 VBL Champions
  • 1959 VBL Champions
  • 1962 VBL Champions
  • 1964 VBL Champions
  • 1969 VBL Champions
  • 1970 VBL Champions
  • 1971 VBL Champions
  • 1977 VBL Champions
  • 1991 VBL Champions
  • 2000 VBL Champions
  • 2012 VBL Champions
  • 2023 VBL Champions

The Turks’ Life Line

7/5/05 – Daily News Record

It’s Up To The Teams Owner To Keep His Players Fed, Housed By AARON GRAY Daily News-Record It seems simple enough. Find a job, kill some time, make some money. But for the Harrisonburg Turks, who come to town for only eight weeks every summer to hone their baseball skills and stay sharp for their college teams, it’s often foreign territory. With classes, practice and lifting weights consuming most of their day during the school year, holding down a job can be difficult for these often strapped-for-cash athletes. Then comes the summertime. "It’s probably one of the most important decisions they’re going to make while they’re out here," said Teresa Wease, the Turks’ operations manager, "whether they’re going to work a job or not. A lot of these guys can’t afford not to work, and finding them jobs around town is almost a full-time job in itself." Spending a summer in Harrisonburg, hundreds or even thousands of miles from home, is a big enough adjustment for college kids. Finding jobs, food and housing would be Mission Impossible for many of them. So Teresa and her husband, team owner Bob Wease, provide the players with all the basics of life, allowing them to concentrate on baseball and, if they’re lucky, on catching the eye of a pro scout. Juan Pierre is a perfect example. He arrived in Harrisonburg to play for the Turks in 1997 and immediately found himself in the team’s safety net. Pierre didn’t have any money when the club picked him up at the airport that summer, so Bob Wease immediately found the speedy 5-foot-7 center fielder a job working maintenance at the Four Points hotel and Pierre borrowed a bicycle from Wease to travel to and from work. All the tender loving care must have paid off. Today, Pierre is the leadoff hitter for the Florida Marlins. Transportation is still an issue for the current Turks, who are 13-11 at the one-day Fourth of July break. Take pitcher Chris Fessler, who occasionally walks from his Fox Hill townhouse to Eagle Carpet, where he works in the morning three times a week. "I love it," said Fessler, who will play at Central Missouri State next year. "We’re indoors the whole time and we do some deliveries. Before I started, I was sleeping in all the time and being lazy. Now, I’m making some money and it really helps." Not that Fessler, who works about 15 hours a week, has to worry about paying the rent. Although the Turks are the only team in the NCAA-sanctioned Valley League that does not rely on host families to house players, the club doesn’t expect its players to find their own abodes. It subleases college-oriented dwellings for most of its athletes and picks up the utility bills, too. Teresa Wease said it’s often easier to set up players in their own apartments than find host families, and the Turks have been doing so since 1990. "Bob and I work year-round in finding jobs for these guys and a place to live," said Wease, who advertises in the James Madison student newspaper for vacant summer apartments. "We just don’t have the manpower. It’s asking a lot of our friends and neighbors to essentially create a job in most situations for these guys and take them in for eight weeks." Indiana State pitcher Chad Dawson and two James Madison players – catcher Matt Sluder and outfielder Matt Bristow – work about eight hours a week at the Harrisonburg Auto Auction. Dawson, somehow, finds time to take a college course online. San Francisco pitcher Scott Cousins, one of only two Turks not living in an apartment, helps out his host family with daily chores, and just about every other player on the team works the various baseball camps offered to local youths by the Turks. "This time of year, it gets busy and our work load picks up, so having these guys around works well for us," said Eagle Carpet warehouse manager Scott Harlow, who employs Fessler and St. Joseph’s of Indiana pitcher Eric Fussell and has provided part-time jobs for Turks the last four seasons. "They play baseball just about every night, so when they have a night off, we have them over and grill out and stuff. They work hard for us, so we take care of them." Food, of course, is a big deal for college students, and the Turks make sure their players get plenty to eat. Besides allowing them to raid the concession stand every night for leftover hot dogs and hamburgers after home games, Wease said, the Turks also supply players with daily meal tickets to Golden Corral for lunch. Gourmet? No. Filling? Yes. "I use [the tickets], but I hate Golden Corral," said Fessler, who grew up in Prescott Valley, Ariz. "It’s a buffet, but you eat it every day. I mean, I eat it because it’s free and I’d rather not spend money, so I shouldn’t be complaining." For breakfast, the players are on their own. When the team is on the road, the Turks provide post-game pizzas or sandwiches except on the short treks to Staunton and New Market. Because the Turks play games almost every night, their evenings are usually filled with baseball. In the daytime, some work, while others like to spend their time playing golf, hiking, tubing on the Shenandoah River, playing video games or lifting weights at local gyms. Devoid of their college’s weight rooms, some get discount memberships at Nautilus Fitness Center. Two of the Turks are luckier. Sluder and Bristow have the luxury of lifting weights on-campus at JMU. "We sort of have the home-field advantage," Sluder, a two-year Turk, said. "The summer is just like during school. The baseball is the same, but instead of going to class, we go to the gym or work. It’s minimum wage, but it keeps us busy and it’s fun." With a little luck, some of these Turks might sign contracts to play professional baseball one day and all the part-time summer jobs and waiting in line at the buffet will be nothing more than a memory of their days spent in Harrisonburg. And, in some cases, stars really are born in the Valley. When the High Point (then known as the Sheraton) called Bob Wease the next summer to see if Pierre could return to his maintenance duties, Wease informed the hotel that the South Alabama star had been drafted by the Colorado Rockies and would be spending that summer playing pro baseball. Seven years later, Pierre’s 2005 salary with the Marlins is $3.7 million. "Bob started laughing," Teresa Wease recalled. "He told them, ‘Juan Pierre could probably buy the Sheraton right now.’" Have an opinion about it? Write to: csimmons@dnronline.com