Take a journey with the Valley Baseball League

05/10/2008 – Staunton News Leader

Around the Valley in 60 Days passport underscores talent on display in league Written By Shaun T. Cox Hitting for the cycle is one of the rarest feats in baseball, and has only been accomplished about 250 times since the league was established in 1869. Hitting for the Around the Valley in 60 Days cycle can be done by any one of the thousands of Valley Baseball League fans, and you don’t need to know the first thing about swinging a bat. All you need is a ride, and a passport. Not an international travel passport, but a VBL card that patrons can get stamped whenever they go to a new ballpark. Everyone who completes the 11-stadium roundtripper will be eligible to win prizes, which are still being debated at this point. Promoter Jerry Carter, the owner of Crystal Clear Delivery, said he organized this new venture so more people take notice of the type of talent that comes through the league, including the last two World Series MVPs, Mike Lowell of the Red Sox and the Cardinals’ David Eckstein. “We’re trying to take the non-fan and make them a fan,” Carter said. “We’re trying to take the average fan and make them a diehard fan. We’re trying to take the diehard fans and give them something fun to do. A lot of people don’t understand the talent that’s in the league. They talk about it being the ‘Gateway to the Majors,’ and it really is with the amount of kids that come through here and how high the level of play is. That’s one of the goals is to get people to understand that it’s a quality product that’s out there.” Carter, of Luray, covered the VBL for the Northern Virginia Daily for two years, and he took the money he made covering the league and put it all back into this promotion, the idea for which he came up with after completing a few cycles of his own. “The situation I ran into was a lot of people … collect sports memorabilia,” he said. “I collect sports memories. I’ve completed a few cycles myself: I’ve been to every Major League park, all of the ACC basketball arenas, and I took my son, back when he was in the sixth grade and we lived in Seattle, to the Northwest League, an A ball league. “I called up the guy who wrote for the local paper and said, ‘Hey, my son and I have toured the league. Are you interested in hearing about it?’ He came out and wrote up a story that, to this day, is one of the neatest things that’s ever happened to my son. They ran it on the front page of the sports section and it made his school year for him,” Carter said. Carter said he came up with the idea for no other reason than to promote the league, its players and owners, and the people who volunteer their time to make it all happen. “You have 11 owners who are marketing their own teams, but the league doesn’t really have a marketing department to market itself,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s a fascinating league, and what I wanted to try to do was I took the money that I was paid to write about baseball for two seasons — because I would write about baseball for free — and I set it aside so I could find a way to give it back to the league.” Carter said he went to the league owners and asked for nothing more than an 11-0 vote that they would back him. “If I can convince somebody to get in a car at $3.60 a gallon and drive 50 miles to see a game,” he said, “that somebody is there to shake their hand and say, ‘Welcome to Covington, or welcome to Waynesboro.’” Staunton Braves co-owner Kay Snyder said getting all 11 owners to agree on some-thing can be difficult sometimes. “For this to work, all 11 of us had to agree to participate, and that’s exciting for me to see that all of us are working together on a common goal,” she said. “It’s a real opportunity for our fans to become involved in a Valley League baseball project. We hope it’s going to be a very successful thing and it being the first year, we are planning on offering it in the future. The passports will be passed out on opening day at all of the parks, starting May 31. The owners are kicking around several ideas as to what to award people who complete the stadium round-tripper. “We haven’t decided that yet, and that’s got to be something really special,” Snyder said. “With gas prices and all the way they are, if people travel to all the ballyards, it has to be something really special for them when the time comes.”