For the first time since World War II, there will be no Valley League baseball season

John Leonard interviews Brendan Smith of the Strasburg Express in 2017.

By John Leonard, contributor

I just can’t believe it’s gone. On April 2, the Valley League made the momentous decision to cancel the 2020 summer season. 

I first had an inkling that Valley League baseball may not be coming this summer to the 11 regional towns with franchises when the NBA and MLB postponed their seasons. The NBA announced its postponement on March 11; MLB followed suit the next day. That’s obviously never a good sign.

Then, on March 31, an email popped into my inbox from VBL Commissioner Bruce Alger, asking for input about the upcoming season from all eleven franchises and other stakeholders like me (I am the league’s Media Relations Director). I answered with a plea to wait a bit yet. Couldn’t we postpone, and, assuming the world returns to some idea of normal, perhaps play a shortened schedule in July? 

But the VBL Executive Committee met on April 2, and the dreaded phone call came just before 7 p.m. The league was pulling the plug, becoming the first (and, to my knowledge, the only) summer league to cancel operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s too dangerous, they decided, to bring hundreds of players into the area, most living with host families, and expect the league to carry on like normal. This will be the first summer without a VBL season since 1945.

The usual flurry of media director responsibilities ensued. I wrote a press release, and then answered question after question from folks who were, without exception, disappointed with the news. All of the hundreds and hundreds of folks who make a Valley League season run, from players and coaches, umpires, host families, league personnel (like yours truly), and dozens and dozens of volunteers from each team… would have to find something else to do.

I’ve been writing about this league since 2006, and each summer, I eagerly await the content that would be provided to me from as many as five games played every single night… and I usually wrote thousands of words each week (the 2019 Valley League Annual was over 85,000 words, for Pete’s sake). Now, I’ll have to create my own content.

So while there won’t be live games this summer, Graham Knight of Isomer Media (the guy behind the Facebook streaming last summer) and I are still planning to put content in front of fans jonesing for some Valley League baseball content:

  • On my website, All Things Valley League, I’ll be running polls on the best hitters and pitchers ever produced from the league. I put up a new poll every day, and voters determine who moves on to the next round. After I finish the hitters I’ll move on to the pitchers, of course, and then one or two brackets on the best players of the past decade.
  • Graham, along with Jeremy Huber, the voice of the Purcellville Cannons, have started a Valley League podcast that will air on the VBL YouTube page.
  • Looking back at 2019, we will post some of the best games from last summer on the YouTube page, and will even post a game or two from 2018 and 2017. The rebroadcasts will have some component of commentary as well.
  • The Major League draft will still be held at some point this summer, and ATVL will cover any and all players who will get a shot at the game’s professional level.
  • The latest missive from Major League Baseball is that the leadership is hoping to begin play in early May, perhaps with isolating every team’s players, and holding games in empty Spring Training stadiums in Arizona. If this is the case, I’ll follow all of the former Valley Leaguers at the game’s highest level. (This goes for the minor leagues, as well.)

So even though I’m still in shock that the season is over before it even began, like most of us stuck doing different things during this pandemic, it looks like it won’t be impossible to move forward. 

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