Though last summer’s arrival of a Valley League baseball team to Charles Town was a success – the Cannons made the playoffs and also finished ahead of far more established teams in the league in terms of attendance – we realize that many in the community still may not know a lot about summer collegiate wooden-bat baseball.
When Spirit of Jefferson editor Robert Snyder offered me the opportunity to formally introduce the Cannons to citizens in the Panhandle through a series of columns ahead of the team’s May 30 season opener at Sager Field in Shenandoah Junction, I was happy to step up to the plate.
As team president and head coach, I will provide readers of the Spirit with insight on the decision to bring the Cannons to the area and how Charles Town became the only team outside the Commonwealth of Virginia ever established in league’s 92-year existence.
Why Charles Town?
When I was a high school baseball player in Clarke County in the early 1980s, I became aware of a baseball icon just over the state line in West Virginia – Coach John Lowery. I attended one of his seminars in 1981 where speakers included Billy Hunter, Doug DeCinces and Al Bumbry from the Baltimore Orioles.
Needless to say, listening to those professionals provide knowledge and insight left a profound memory – not only of Coach Lowery but of Jefferson County. Furthermore, Coach Lowery was an assistant to Larry Bryant and the Winchester Royals of my home state’s Valley League.
As a 16-year-old, I remember thinking how cool it was to attend a seminar conducted by a state champion high school and Valley League champion coach. That was the foundation that would bring Valley League Baseball to Charles Town 32 years later.
In June of 2012, my father, Don Fuller and I purchased the Luray Wranglers of the VBL. This storied franchise had won four championships in the previous 10 seasons. However, attendance was poor and the baseball facility needed upgrading. We began to weigh the concept of relocating to Charles Town.
That September, with support from Jefferson High School, Coach John Lowery Sr., his son, Coach John Lowery Jr. and Coach Mike Smith, I presented to the Valley Baseball League board of directors along with Stacy Locke, an officer on the Luray team’s board of directors and our public relations and marketing director, a proposal to make Charles Town the first team – ever – from outside of Virginia to become a member of the Valley League in its 90-year existence.
We needed a majority vote needed to gain acceptance – six out of 11 teams – but we received10 supporting votes of confidence. What may have seemed unthinkable in the past had come to fruition: a West Virginia team in the VBL.
— Brett Fuller, who moved to Charles Town in April, will write about how important community support is to the Cannons in next week’s Spirit.