New Valley League baseball team set to play opener Friday
On Friday evening, the baseball being played at Sager Field in Shenandoah Junction will have a slightly different look to it. Instead of Jefferson High facing an area high school team, the first-year Charles Town Cannons of the Valley League will begin a new era of baseball in the county.
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It will be Cannons baseball. With college players using only wooden bats. And young college coaches.
Every player on the Charles Town roster has at least one year of collegiate eligibility remaining. Some of the players were redshirted this season and didn’t play at their school. Some were at two-year schools and will be moving from their community college/junior college to a four-year school in the fall.
About 10 of those on Charles Town’s long roster won’t be with the team on Friday or until their college team completes its season when the NCAA Division I national tournament is over.
The Cannons have players from Oklahoma State, Liberty, Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State. All four of those schools are in the 64-team field in the 16 NCAA Regionals that also begin this weekend.
Those 10 players whose teams accomplished a major goal by reaching the NCAA tournament are Logan Boyd, Rumsey David and Spencer Rahm of Sam Houston State; Hayden Cronenbold, Alex Hackerott and Brent Williams of Oklahoma State; Kraig Kelley and Connor McClain of the University of Central Arkansas and Kyle McKelvey and Adam Parks of Liberty.
None of the team’s outfielders — Richard “Junior” Amion (Alabama State), Shane Ammon (Texas-Pan American), Waldyvan Estrada (Alabama State) and Ty Michelson (Arkansas State) — are away with schools in the national tournament.
There could be six infielders with the team for the 7 p.m. Opening Night beginning to the season.
The infielders are L.K. Thompson (Florida International), Luke Stewart (Broward College), Shane Segovia (Missouri), Brady North (Jacksonville), Emmanuel Marrero (Alabama State) and Pat Ammar (Wheeling Jesuit).
The lone catcher on the listed roster not associated with a school in an NCAA Regional is Matt Durst from Southern Mississippi.
As many as 11 pitchers could be with the Cannons on Friday for the first game. Chris Payne (George Mason), Logan Traylor (Auburn), Ryan Morse (Furman), Tyler Hibbert (Florida International) and Jonathan Furlong (Southeastern Oklahoma State) are five of those from schools not in any NCAA Regional.
The other six pitchers on the roster who could be on hand this weekend are Steven Burnham (Florida Sourthern), Michael Estevez (Alabama State), Stephen McClellan (Lake Sumter CC), Jeremy Mansur (Neosho CC), Jacob Johnson (Neosho CC) and Michael Hennessey (Lake Sumter CC).
The Valley League uses a transaction wire that all 12 teams can use to add and delete players from their respective rosters. The number of transactions is usually a large one with some teams quickly changing their rosters as the 44-game season moves along.
On Opening Night, the Cannons will offer the county’s first-ever team of strictly college-age athletes. The gate at Sager Field opens at 5:30 p.m. for the scheduled 7 p.m. start. Sets of metal bleachers have replaced the concrete block fixtures that were in place for more than 30 years.
Ticket prices range from $5 for adults to $3 for senior citizens to $2 for children. A concession stand and souvenir stand will be in operation. The team will hold a 50/50 raffle and involve the fans in games and other ways.
Even the Cannons second game of the season will be at home. Aldie comes to Sager Field for a 7 p.m. game on Saturday, June 1.
Charles Town’s Cannons are now a part of the Valley League that had its opening way back in 1923. The 12 teams in the league are (North Division) Charles Town, Winchester, Strasburg, Front Royal, Aldie, and Woodstock and (South Division) Lexington, Rockbridge, Waynesboro, New Market, Harrisonburg and Staunton.
Bring on the wooden bats. Bring on baseball on 22 summer nights in Jefferson County. Then, hopefully, brings on the league playoffs in early August.
Bring on the Charles Town Cannons.