By Savannah Reger, contributor
After COVID-19 shut down the Valley Baseball League (VBL) in 2020, the Harrisonburg Turks and 10 other teams are back in business this summer.
The Turks’ roster features local players as well as ones from across the country. Among them are four JMU players staying in Harrisonburg, including catcher Travis Reifsnider, who has played in the league before and is happy to return.
“It’s definitely been a blessing to have consistent games,” Reifsnider said. “Especially with last summer being up in the air, being able to play five, six, games a week, and just knowing I get the chance to compete every day.”
The Turks have had an up-and-down season thus far. Although manager Bob Wease recently won his 500th career game, the team has a 12-13 record and sits in third place in the VBL’s South Division.
“I think that we just kinda need to stick with it as a team,” Reifsnider said. “We keep having team victories and when certain guys don’t have their best games, other games come in and pick them up.”
The league hasn’t entirely escaped the pandemic, as some health protocols are in effect – although minimal for players like Reifsnider who are vaccinated.
“I don’t have protocols other than wearing a mask on the bus,” Reifsnider said. “It hasn’t been too strenuous because coming from JMU where the guidelines were pretty strict, but it’s been not too tough to deal with.”
While the stakes aren’t as high as when playing for JMU, Reifsnider said that the VBL gives him the opportunity to work on skills that he doesn’t get the opportunity to practice in CAA play..
“For lack of a better term, summer ball is a little more laid back,” Reifsnider said. “Obviously the goal is to win and play together as a team, but I think specific things that [players] need to work on to help their school team each spring.
JMU outfielder Callaway Sigler is spending the summer in the VBL with the Staunton Braves
“My grandparents currently live in Staunton,” Sigler said. “It’s easier for family purposes so they can come watch me play.”
The Braves sit right below the Turks at fourth in the South Division at 12-16. While the Turks have experienced several rainouts, the Braves had played all the scheduled games thus far and, Sigler said, need to improve defensively to have a shot at the playoffs.
“Personally, I think it’s a lot of things [that need to improve],” Sigler said. “Mental mistakes on the defensive end, just making routine plays and passing the bat. I think if we do that, we’ll get back in the win column.”
The league’s All-Star game takes place on July 11 at Veterans Memorial Park in Harrisonburg and after that, the final stretch to the playoffs.
“[The Valley Baseball League] kinda keeps me in shape,” Sigler said. “It keeps me mentally prepared so I think it’s important that the Valley Baseball League is up this year.”
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