VBL Gets Rare Tube Time

07/15/2009 – Daily News Record

All-Stars Play D.C.-Area Team

Written by Marcus Helton Daily News Record

HARRISONBURG – When he was chosen to lead the Valley Baseball League All-Stars against a team from the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate League in the inaugural Mid-Atlantic Classic, Staunton Braves manager Lance Mauck knew it would be a showcase event.

After all, the game – which is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. today – is being played in a 4,200-seat minor league stadium in Waldorf, Md., and will be broadcast live regionally on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

Still, Mauck, a Baltimore native, said he was unaware of how much publicity the game was getting until he started getting phone calls from friends back home.

“[They said], ‘Hey, they keep advertising this thing on commercials and all this stuff, I think it’s going to be a pretty big deal,’ and I’m like, ‘Really?'” Mauk said with a laugh Tuesday. “I was a little ignorant to that aspect of it. I got a phone call today saying I had an interview with [MASN broadcaster] Johnny Holliday at 6:15, and I’m like, ‘Really?’ It’s pretty cool, and I’m sure I’ll be getting nervous here in the morning.”

Mauck and 28 VBL players representing each of the league’s 12 teams will trek to Waldorf’s Regency Furniture Stadium, the home of the independent Atlantic League’s Southern Maryland Blue Crabs. A Home Run Derby will be held at 5:30 p.m.

“I feel fortunate to be there, you know?” said Bethune-Cookman University pitcher Rayan Gonzalez, who will represent the VBL’s Harrisonburg Turks. “I think it’s a great chance to be part of that team. I’ll go there and try to do my best, because not everybody gets to go there.”

New Market Rebels president and general manager Bruce Alger served as chairman of a six-member committee that helped plan the game. Alger said the Ripken League – a Baltimore-based wooden-bat circuit that was founded in 2005 – was looking for a way to revamp its intra-league all-star game, and given its proximity, the VBL was a logical choice.

The Ripken League – which has teams in metro Washington and Baltimore – contacted the VBL in November to gauge interest, and a two-year agreement was finalized in early February. The leagues will meet again next summer, most likely in Maryland, allowing MASN to carry the game.

“MASN is the key to the whole thing,” Alger said. “We have to pretty much play where they’re able to televise the game without dragging their equipment all over the country.”

VBL commissioner Dave Biery said the game was intentionally scheduled to not coincide with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which also played a part in MASN’s decision to carry it.

The Ripken League’s all-star game was shown live on MASN in 2007; this will be the Valley’s first live broadcast.

“We’ve had some of our all-star games on delayed broadcast,” Biery said, “but we’ve never had a live TV broadcast of any type of game before, so that’s a big thing.”

How big? Well Ripken League deputy commissioner Bob Douglas can attest to that.

“It’s a big deal,” Douglas said. “I mean, there’s two trucks sitting right in front of the stadium right now with over $20 million worth of equipment. I don’t think the Valley League – not Bruce, Bruce does – they don’t know what they’re in for when they get here. This isn’t somebody with one microphone and a camera up high. This is a 30-man crew. These are the guys that do the Orioles’ games.”

Douglas said his league is footing the bill for the game, which he said is costing $51,000. Various sponsors, advertisers and donors are helping cover the costs, however, and although game tickets are free, donations are welcome.

While the Ripken League scrapped its own all-star game in favor of the Mid-Atlantic Classic, Valley owners voted unanimously to keep their mid-season showcase. The VBL All-Star Game took place in Woodstock on Sunday, with the South winning, 1-0. Players from both teams were combined to form tonight’s roster.

Luray manager Mike Bocock, who will be an assistant coach for the VBL, said that while tonight’s game is a good opportunity for the more-established VBL to gain some regional exposure it also has a downside.

“Frankly, if we don’t win, it’s bad for our league,” he said, “and we don’t want that to happen. I do think it gets exposure, and I’d agree with that, but it also puts some added pressure on us.”

Mauck, an assistant coach at Towson University, knows the Ripken League well, thanks to the league’s reputation and the fact that four of his TU players will be on its all-star team. He said part of the league’s strength is that it allows high school seniors to play – which the VBL does not – and it can get players who have been drafted out of high school but elected to play at four-year schools instead of signing pro contracts.

Because winning won’t be easy but will be important, Mauck said he warned the players at the VBL All-Star game that not everyone would get to play tonight. With 28 players on the roster – 12 of them pitchers – and free substitution not allowed, getting everyone in would be nearly impossible.

“Each league wants to win this game,” he said, “So it’s going to be a little bit more competitive than your usual All-Star game. Everybody’s not going to get in, and that’s the bitter shame of it all, but it is what it is.” Marcus Helton Sports Writer Sports Department mhelton@dnronline.com 540-574-6285