Knights Stock Turks

04/23/2008 – Daily News Record

Four TA Stars To Play For VBL Club Written By Dustin Dopirak HARRISONBURG – Bob Wease admits he holds local players to a slightly higher standard than others when he’s putting together his roster. Don’t get the Harrisonburg Turks’ manager wrong. He’d love to be able to assemble a team with lots of Valley athletes because it would be great for his bottom line – "each kid will bring six, eight, 10 people to the ballpark every night, maybe more," he said. But if a local kid is on the roster but can’t break into the lineup, it creates more ego problems than with players from far-flung colleges. That’s why Wease usually has only has one or two on the roster. "The last thing you want is for some local kid to come in and not play," Wease said Tuesday. "If you come, you gotta be able to play." This year, he found a bumper crop. Pitcher Justin Wood, catcher Josh Tutwiler and infielders Daniel Heatwole and Alex Stover – all Turner Ashby High School graduates – are on the Turks’ roster for the upcoming Valley Baseball League season, which begins May 31. "I think all four of them can play," Wease said. That, Wease said, speaks for the quality of play at Turner Ashby, the two-time defending Group AA champion and a school that has played in each of the last three state title games. "You can’t say enough about the TA baseball team," he said. "It’s a great program. They’ve got a kid up there right now, the outfielder, Daniel Bowman, I would take him right now in the Valley League. He could play right field for me right now." As for the guys who will play for him right now, only one has dealt with the pressure of playing locally in the Valley League, a wooden-bat summer circuit filled with Division I athletes hoping to hone their skills and audition for pro scouts. Wood, a junior left-hander at James Madison, pitched for the Turks after his freshman year, then played in Alaska last summer before returning to the Turks. "I would say that there’s more eyes on you," Wood said. "There’s more attention. There’s still a lot of comfort because there is so much local support, but you’re more in the spotlight than some of the other guys." Still, Wood said the comfort level outweighs the pressure. Though he enjoyed the experience of playing in Alaska, he said, it’s nice to operate on your own schedule as opposed to the team’s schedule. It’s also nice to spend the summer with your own family. "You see people you know. You’ve got your family support there," he said. "It’s just a fun atmosphere." Each of the local athletes will have a lot to play for this summer. While Wood enters his last summer as a collegian with time running out to make a push for the Major League Baseball draft, the other three have their own reasons to try to impress. Tutwiler redshirted as a freshman this season at St. John’s, and Heatwole and Stover are both at Hagerstown (Md.) Community College trying to convince a four-year school to pick them up. Heatwole, who transferred from Ferrum after last season, is redshirting this spring, hoping to get his grades up. "This summer is pretty big for me," Heatwole said. "I’m just hoping to come out and impress some people, especially other college coaches." Other than the four local players, Wease got most of this year’s roster from his traditional outlets – Arizona, San Francisco, Troy, Oklahoma City University, St. Joseph’s (Ill.) and Yavapai Junior College in Arizona. And, in at least one area, this team will stand out. Nine players are 6-3 or taller, and three are at least 6-5. Though as a manager, Wease typically likes to utilize speed, he thinks this squad may be more power oriented. "Usually, I have a lot of guys that can really run," he said. "I think this year might be a lot like my 2002 team where we hit a lot of gap balls." The Turks return seven players from last year’s squad, most of them pitchers. Left-hander Chris Chapman (Bethune-Cookman) and right-handers Garrett Parker (Oklahoma City), Chase Sonen (St. Joseph’s) and Tim Wheeler (Troy) all return. So do catcher Mike Pericht (St. Joe’s) and infielders B.J. Wheeler (Oklahoma City) and Brett Stewart (Appalachian State). Other pitchers are left-handers Matt Chaffee (Arizona), Garrett Luipold (San Francisco) and Matt Way (Washington State), as well as right-handers Greg Bartleski (University of the South), Craig Kimbrell (Wallace State Community College), Aaron Rhodes (Arizona), Josh Storm (Troy) and Eric Thomas (Bethune-Cookman). Western Oklahoma State’s Wilsisky Baez gives the Turks a third catcher along with Pericht and Tutwiler. Also in the infield are first basemen Zachary Castleberry (Yavapai) and Patrick Luehrinh (St. Joseph’s), second basemen Landon Camp (Oklahoma City) and Cody Bartlett (Washington State), shortstop Rafael Valenzuela (Arizona) and third baseman Zach Skidmore (Eastern Illinois). In the outfield are Zack Diekmann (Cumberland), Drew Johnson (San Francisco), David Mann (Oklahoma City), Michael Percise (Troy), Matt Presley (Arizona) and Charley Williams (Troy.)