Turks Welcome Pitching Coach with VBL Background

By Jen Kulju
Turks Staff Writer

HARRISONBURG – George Laase first became acquainted with the Valley Baseball League (VBL) in 2003 when he was recruited to play summer ball with the Staunton Braves while attending West Virginia’s Fairmont State University. Laase grew up in Rayland, Ohio, where he was a four-year starter and pitcher in high school. He specialized in shortshop at Fairmont, and as a four-year starter and letterman, became only the tenth player in school history to have a .400 career batting average.

“I was always a hitter,” says Laase, who hit .379 during his time with the Staunton Braves and got to play alongside four major leaguers: Gaby Sánchez (former first baseman for the Florida/Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates), Will Harris (pitcher for the Houston Astros), Joe Koshansky (former first baseman for the Colorado Rockies), and Matt Fox (former pitcher for the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox).

Laase always wanted to be a professional baseball player, but realized that was not in the cards for him after going to a few workouts after graduating from Fairmont. However, just one year after playing for the Braves, Laase was asked to return to the team as an assistant coach. Following that summer, his path took him in other directions—but Laase was led back to Staunton again in 2010. He coached baseball at Robert E. Lee High School for two years. In 2012, Laase was offered a teaching position at the school, and in 2013, he decided to step down from his coaching position at the high school after landing a five-year contract as the head coach of the Staunton Braves.

“Being a head coach for the Braves was something I wanted to do. It was on my bucket list. I got that opportunity, and it was a great time,” declares Laase.” When his contract came to an end, Laase got a call from Harrisonburg Turks’ head coach Bob Wease, who asked him to join the Turks as the pitching coach. “Bob has a great organization and has given me a great opportunity,” shares Laase.

As the pitching coach, Laase approaches his position from the standpoint of a hitter: “What would I not want to see as a hitter in this situation?” Laase also focuses on form and fundamentals that includes terms like balance, load, hand separation, consistency, pitch grips, and release point. According to Laase, the job also means taking into consideration how many pitches a player throws and what games they have pitched in. Players can only pitch two games in a row before they have to sit a game—or they have to sit a game due to throwing a certain number of pitches. “Pitching coaches have more responsibility than in the past,” adds Laase.

Part of that responsibility is to “not only give the players’ confidence, but to give them a chance.” The Turks have given Laase the chance to stay with the game of baseball, a game that he loves. “It’s a blessing to be with the Turks. Without the Turks and the VBL, I don’t know what I would be doing today.”