The Blue Ridge Black Bears baseball team will play about 70 games this summer. Their season doesn’t end in early June. When school is out, they are playing. And they are seeing quality competition in tournaments in Virginia where the 13U travel team has played in 30-team events in Leesburg (Longhorn Tournament) and Olney Park in Maryland.
When not going to weekend tournaments, the Black Bears find competition in a Virginia-based league now called the Future State Prospect League.
“The league we play in used to be called the ‘Old Dominion Baseball League’ “, said coach John Lowery, Jr. “The teams are from Fairfax County and Loudoun County.” The Blue Ridge team plays 12 games in that league that has teams from places like Burke, Herndon, Chantilly, and Leesburg.
The Black Bears have five team members from Winchester and nine players from West Virginia. They all play multiple positions in games where all the players get to bat and no league standings are kept.
The nine team members from West Virginia are Alex Tennant, Austin Cross, Nathan Steeley, Austin Bulman, Dalton Dodson, Bailey Dodson, Isaac Heavener, Dylan Carroll, and Beau Lowery.
Helping Lowery, Jr. coach are Eddie Tennant and Archie Dodson.
“We don’t keep stats,” said Lowery, Jr. “We keep track of quality at-bats and how many strikes the pitchers throw. We emphasize those things when talking to the players about what they have done.”
It doesn’t matter how many players are with the team for any particular game, they all get to bat that day. Most of the players involved in a particular game switch positions throughout and get to try their hand at two or three defensive posts in one game. Pitchers don’t throw too many offerings during any game.
By mid-June the team will have “played or scrimmaged over 50 times”, Lowery, Jr. mentioned.
“We mostly commute back and forth to our games in Virginia. There will be three overnight trips. When we go to the Ruther Glen (Virginia) Sports Complex and the Cove Creek tournament near Charlottesville we will there overnight.”
The other long-distance tournament will come in late June into the first week in July when the Black Bears go to Indiana for a tournament against both 13U and 14U teams.
Lowery, Jr. has arranged to play in a tournament in Indiana, where he lived and coached college baseball for a time after graduating from the University of Minnesota. “My firiend, Joel Mishler, who I’ve known since my first year of coaching at Ball State University in Muncie, has a tournament he stages at Goshen College. It’s in the middle of Amish country and the atmosphere is quiet and unhurried. We play three games there.
“When the tournament is over in Goshen, we go to South Bend for the ‘Pastimes’ tournament where the championship game will be played at the baseball facility at the University of Notre Dame.”
After returning from Indiana, the Black Bears will host their own tournament July 6 through July 8 at Sager Field at Jefferson High.
“Our tournament will be to help raise money for the Andrew Rotruck Memorial Scholarship. It will be a mixture of 13U and 14U teams. We already have seven teams committed to play and need just one more. Every team will be guaranteed four games with the two teams playing in the championship game having five games. That will be the only tournament we host this summer,” said the coach.
The Black Bears have found a well-organized league for their non-tournament games and have made a schedule that usually includes a weekend tournament.
The team is playing in June. The team is playing in July. School isn’t in session. Baseball is not interfering with classroom activities. In fact, learning (and playing) baseball in game situations against able competition should be schooling enough to help the players in future summers.