SHENANDOAH JUNCTION — For Rippon residents Ike and Sue Lloyd, there is nothing quite like spending a summer evening enjoying America’s pastime.
“We all love it,” said Sue Lloyd as the couple took in a recent Charles Town Cannons game with friends Frank and Betty Simons at Jefferson High’s Sager Field.
“These guys played baseball all their lives, and we’ve got a grandson who plays for Washington High. We just love baseball.”
“We like to come out and eat hot dogs,” added Ike Lloyd, who said he would probably be watching some baseball on television when he got home. “It gives you something to do in the evening. It’s relaxing.”
The Cannons, whose season ended Monday following a 4-3 playoffs loss to the Strasburg Express, are hoping the baseball tradition carried on by families like the Simonses and the Lloyds in the Eastern Panhandle translates into a bright future for the franchise.
“I knew Jefferson County was a good baseball community,” said co-owner Don Fuller, who moved the team from Luray, Va. after buying it along with son Brett.
The team has seen some success on the field, having ended regular season play with a
23-21 record, good enough for second place in the Valley League North. But those wins haven’t come in front of the large crowds team management was hoping to see. While more than 200 people showed up for opening night on May 31, attendance has been less than 100 at most games since.
While the attendance has been sparse, the fans on hand say they are enthusiastic about having a team to call their own, and hoping that enthusiasm will spread to the rest of the community.
“I think it’s great,” said Charles Town resident Don Quigley. “I think this is long overdue for this area. This is just awesome, not having to drive an hour and a half to see a game.”
Quigley said he didn’t find out about the team — made up of college players from around the country, including many with major league aspirations — until about halfway through the season. He’s become a regular since and thinks others will follow.
“The word’s still getting out,” Quigley said. “I just found out about it not too long ago. I hope it really booms. I know I’m going to get out and run my mouth about it.”
Other fans also said the news of a team moving to the area has been slow getting out. Gary Viands, attending his first game after hearing about the Cannons only recently, said he looks forward to coming
“I work in the county, I volunteer with the fire department, and the other night was the first time anyone told me about the Charles Town Cannons,” Viands said. “It’s nice because I don’t have to drive to Frederick to watch baseball.”
Fuller believes it will take some time for the community to embrace the Cannons, who he said are competing for attention with the area little leagues for much of the season.
“I know the parents want to come out and see their kids play,” he said. “It’s going to take about two or three years to get the crowd out that you need to be able to operate the team.”
For their part, the Cannons are making a point to become a part of the community, upgrading the field and planning promotions that allow the fans to meet and get to know the players, said marketing and public relations coordinator Stacy Locke.
“I don’t want there to be a disconnect between the fans and the players,” Locke said. “I want them to be able to come and be involved and talk to the players and let them know they’re fans, and for the players to do the same back.”
As for fans like Sue Lloyd, they are hoping the Cannons can do what it takes to endear themselves to area baseball lovers and establish a tradition in the area.
“We’re hoping that it picks up and that they get a big crowd and lots of support and are back every year,” she said.