Friday night, May 2nd, I was honored to attend the Grandstand Managers Club of New Market's 2008 preseason dinner at the Johnny Appleseed restaurant in New Market.
The Grandstand Managers Club was created in 1993 to help support the New Market Rebels team with many usually unpleasant tasks: raising money, finding sponsors, advertisers, volunteers, and host families, just to name a few.
I was honored to be seated at a table with some important folks: Jerry Carter, the creator of the Around the Valley in 60 Days promotion, Katie Getz, Rebel Intern (and faithful reader), and Austin Gisriel and family. Austin is a freelance writer/landscaper from WIlliamsport, Maryland, who is currently writing an article on the Valley League for Virginia Living magazine.
After the meal, Valley League President Dave Biery started off the speeches with a "Proclamation" from the League: May 2, 2008, will now be known at "Maynard 'Mo' Weber Day." The "longest standing first base coach in league history" was also honored with his own award; each season, the league will give the coach of the year the "Mo Weber Award." Those who know Mo are aware that he is seldom speechless; on this evening, with this surprise, he was just that. (For proof, see the picture to the left)
Austin Gisriel, keynote speaker went next. It's clear that Austin has spent time in the classroom teaching English; his speech was a delight of stories and metaphors. He recounted his first visit to a Rebel game back in 2002, when he and his daughter approached a man changing into uniform to ask about the quality of play they were about to see, and were told that the league's play was very high. Of course, would Coach Weber say anything different?
Austin regaled the audience with his central metaphor: life is like baseball- a series of moments, each holding a multitude of possibilities, with each moment influencing the next. The mantra "wait 'til next year" ensures that our childhood innocence remains intact. (He's pictured right- sorry Austin, it was the best shot I had)
Jerry Carter, part owner of both the Luray Wranglers and the promotion listed above, held forth next. He spoke about heroes, starting with God at #1, and ending his list at Bruce Alger, #4. (His father and Greg Maddux were in there, too.) Jerry will be kicking off the "Around the Valley" promotion in Woodstock on Saturday, May 31. (This blog will be following the promotion throughout the year as well.)
Bruce Alger also reported on improvements made to Rebel Park, everything from a new school bus for travel (but no air conditioning!) to a (hopefully) newly paved parking lot. Bruce also told a fascinating story about a new player due into New Market this summer: Florida Gator Riley Cooper. (I'll save the story for another time: hopefully there will be an interview with Riley at some point this summer.) Put it this way: Riley is going to help the Rebels.
Last but not least, Mo Weber showed that it's official: New Market's long-standing first base coach is still full of vim and vigor- two ingredients essential if one is to coach well into one's 80s. Mo, who will turn 85 this July, read a letter from (unfortunately) missing head coach Nolan Neiman, describing the team and his plans for the year. Mo also had a few sketchy stories to share from the history of New Market which had the crowd rolling.
Frankly, each team could use a group of folks like this to support operations; the excitement for baseball and the new season was almost palpable!