On Sunday, the Valley League held their All-Star Extravaganza in Front Royal, which included a home run derby, 60-yard dash competition, and actual game between the North and the South All-Star teams. The North included the teams of Front Royal, Fauquier, Winchester, Luray, Haymarket, and Woodstock, while the South consisted of players from Harrisonburg, Staunton, Luray, Covington, and Waynesboro. My friend Mark and I were able to travel up to Northern Virginia to catch most of the festivities. The day was brutally hot; it was quite good that the stands in Front Royal are in the shade.
Before I get started, a few observations about the stadium: Bing Crosby Stadium is very impressive. To see some pictures of the renovations that were recently completed, click here. The park was very clean, and the colors are stylish (well, stylish according to my general lack of style, that is, so take that comment with a grain of salt). In addition, several of the players told me that the clubhouses are "great." Three complaints from this fan's perspective: 1) The general admission seats, really just rows of metal, were pretty hard on the derrière after a few innings; 2) The scoreboard holds very little information. There's only space for 9 innings; the board doesn't even have space for a 10th inning, for crying out loud. New Market's scoreboard has batter information like batting average, etc, while this board has only the score by inning; 3) It is difficult to get to the players, because the dugouts are separate from the stands. Autographers, for example, would have issues getting close enough to the players. (Keep in mind that I'm nitpicking here- the stadium's structure is the most impressive that I've seen in the Valley League so far.)
The home run derby was pretty cool; each player in the league with 3 or more home runs was allowed to participate. One odd note: the public address announcer kept calling Covington's Jason Kipnis "Kevin Bishop," even though Bishop was not in attendance. And, to add to the confusion, Kipnis entered the contest even though he had "only" 2 home runs. He does have 29 walks, however, so the consensus was that he would have more home runs if he weren't walked so much.
The setup: each batter received 5 "outs," which consisted of anything that was not a home run.
Brett Bowen, Luray, from Pensacola JC: 3
Chris Love, Fauquier, from South Carolina: 1
Jason Kipnis, Covington, from Kentucky: 3
Kurt Lipton, Fauquier, from Vanderbilt: 2
Jeff Garidel, Haymarket, from Louisiana State: 0
Adan Severino, Luray, from Broward CC: 0
David Burns, Staunton, from Old Dominion:
Drew Pirtle, Luray, from Dallas Baptist: 0 (The crowd was getting restless- where were the homers?)
BJ Wheeler, Harrisonburg, from Clarendon: 2
Pat Irvine, Waynesboro, from Elon: 2
Luke Greinke, Winchester, from Auburn: 1
Second Round (the top 5 moved on from the first round)
BJ Wheeler: 3
Brett Bowen: 2
Jason Kipnis: 7 (Several in a row here- the crowd started getting excited...)
Pat Irvine: 2
Kurt Lipton: 2
Third Round, supposed to be final round
BJ Wheeler: 0
Jason Kipnis: 0
Hmm. Bonus Fourth Round!, each batter gets three outs
BJ Wheeler: 0
Jason Kipnis: 1 (on his first swing)
(Public Address Announcer: "And our 2007 Home Run Derby Champion.... Covington's KEVIN BISHOP!)
For the next competition, the 60-yard dash, players loosened up, and then ran in pairs from the right field line to a flag in center field. This was done mostly for the scouts and not for the fans: while the announcer DID tell us who was running in each pair, we really couldn't see who was winning the "races" from the stands. All of the scouts had out their stopwatches, but times were not announced (to be fair, maybe it was good they didn't announce all the times; most of the players in attendance ran for the scouts, even if speed is not exactly their strength. I won't name names). The winner was announced later: Haymarket's Spencer Wiggins, from George Mason, with a time of 6.45 seconds.
Then the game. Luray's Tyler Kuhn told me before the game that the "pitchers will dominate," and he was exactly right. The North pushed across single runs in the 3rd and 5th, and that was the extent of the scoring, as the North won the game, 2-0. In the 3rd, Front Royal's Bennett Davis doubled, moved to third on a fielder's choice, and scored on a Shayne Moody (Woodstock) sacrifice fly to center. In the 5th, Fauquier's Jeffrey Hartwig led off with a walk, and moved to second when Bennett Davis was hit by a pitch. Our 60-yard dash champion, Spencer Wiggins, dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line to load the bases. After a strikeout, Hartwig scored on a Shayne Moody fielder's choice grounder to shortstop.
The rest of the night seemed to be one big strikeout. The South struck out a collective 14 times, and the North added 8. to be fair to the hitters, a new pitcher was coming in every inning, sometimes more than one, and it's tough to hit a different pitcher every time up, and it's especially tough when the pitcher knows that he has only one or two batters; he can air it out without worry for stamina. To see the final boxscore, click here.
I think it was tough to choose MVPs for each team because of the lack of hitting, and each side had multiple pitchers who impressed with their limited time on the mound. Bennett Davis was named MVP of the North, and Zach Barrett was named MVP of the South. Each batter had a double, which were the only extra-base hits in the game.
My trusty sidekick Mark clocked most of the pitchers... until the batteries ran low in the Jugs radar gun. Here are the highest readings we recorded for the following pitchers:
Dustin Umberger, Luray, from Liberty: 88
Josh Eidell, Woodstock, from Villanova: 83
Robert Gilliam, Luray, from UNC-Greensboro: 91
Thomas Gray, Front Royal, from Chattanooga State: 84
Josh Judy, Haymarket, from Indiana Tech: 87
Ryne Simpson, Woodstock, from Tennessee: 86
Ross Fetterly, New Market, from Old Dominion: 83
Jimmy Stanley, Waynesboro, from Belmont: 86
Robbie Andrews, Covington, from VCU: 83
Tommy Warner, Covington, from Kentucky: 81
Brandon White, Covington, from Arkansas: 77
Ashur Tolliver, Harrisonburg, from Arkansas-Little Rock: 82
It was the place to be in regards to the Valley League; all of the coaches were there, many players who weren't in the game were there, front office people were there, and many scouts were there. And, of course, Haymarket Joe was there, taking many, many pictures. ("LET'S GOOOOOOOOOO, HAYMARKET!!!!") Here is a link to his 690 pictures from the evening: pictures! (Password is "Senators")
Here are just a few of the many pictures of the evening (all following pictures are courtesy of Haymarket Joe):
(In order from top to bottom) Award winners (Davis, Wiggins, Kipnis, and Barrett), Tyler Kuhn. BJ Wheeler, Jason Kipnis, David Dennis, Rob Gilliam, Josh Judy, Josh Eidell