The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Wyant makes most of summer baseball

HARRISONBURG-With one swing of the bat Sunday, Hunter Wyant made himself a Major League prospect. That's what he cares about. Sure, it's great that the swing - a line-drive double to left field in the fifth inning of the annual Valley League All-Star Game - drove his team, the South All-Stars, to an 11-4 victory over the North All-Stars. And it's great that Wyant was named game MVP based on the two RBIs that double roped in.

But, more importantly, there were about 30 scouts in attendance at Veterans' Memorial Stadium in Harrisonburg and every one of them was watching Wyant during the play, which just might bring him some notice from a few big league squads when the next Major League draft rolls around.

That's what the Valley Baseball League is all about. Small towns, collegiate players, wooden bats and big dreams. Scouts looking for that diamond in the rough play the hunter. Those that think they have what it takes to make it in the majors play the hunted.

Related Links
  • Cavs in the Valley League
  • Valley League Baseball
  • Staunton Braves

    Both spend the summer in the towns that comprise the six-team league. None of the places are even close to being cities. Only one, Winchester, has an airport. The other five - Staunton, Front Royal, Waynesboro, Harrisonburg and New Market - are little more than small dots on a map of the Shenandoah Valley.

    For 38 years, the league has provided collegiate players from across the country the chance to flex their muscles in front of fans hungry for summer baseball and those all-important major league scouts, who are eager to see what the players can do with wooden bats. For some, it's worked. There are 113 former Valley League players currently in the pros, most in the minor leagues. One of them, Mike Lowell, a Waynesboro alum, is the starting third baseman for the Florida Marlins.

    So on the night the league showcased its finest, it's no wonder the scouts were out in full force. About 30 or so sat behind the backstop with radar guns and stopwatches in hand.

    "The quality of the players isn't bad," scout Mickey Lambert said. "But what they do in this game isn't going to determine if they get a contract or not. We look at their entire summer and the year after that too."

    A contract is what Wyant wants for the future, but first he has one more season of college eligibility remaining at Virginia. He is one of eight Cavaliers in the Valley League, and one of three that were selected for the All-Star Game. The other two, pitcher Brandon Creswell and catcher Mark Rueffert, have played well in the first half of the Valley League season, but Wyant has outdone them, hitting .324 through 26 games, good for fifth in the league and a starting shortstop spot on the South All-Stars.

    "I just want to prove to the scouts that I can hit with a wooden bat," said Wyant, named game MVP after going 1-for-2 with a run and two RBIs. "I want to put together a solid summer so I can have confidence coming into the fall. There are a lot of scouts here, so I'm glad I did my best and had a good game."

    Wyant, Creswell and Rueffert all were selected to the South All-Star team - which takes players from Staunton, Harrisonburg and Waynesboro - but Creswell didn't see any playing time because he was scheduled to pitch the next day for Staunton. The North picked its squad from the rosters of New Marker, Front Royal and Winchester.

    Wyant's double put the South ahead by one in the fifth inning. A double to left by Staunton outfielder Joe Hastings two batters later sent Wyant home and brought the score to 4-2.

    With the South - designated the home team, leading 6-4 in the top of the ninth inning - officials decided to give the winning team one more turn at bat so all the stars would get a chance to play. Always opportunists, the South exploded with five runs in the extra half-inning to make the final score 11-4, further impressing the scouts.

    "The players were excited," South coach Mike Bocock said. "They're excited because they look up in the stands and there are 27 scouts up there. They all want to play professional baseball and this is their opportunity to really play well."

    On a clear Sunday night, 942 spectators watched the game from the stands of Veteran's Memorial, really just the local high school's baseball field. Most were Valley League regulars. Some, like septuagenarian Elmer Kramer, have been attending games for decades. He said he didn't mind that the quality of play wasn't quite major league, or even minor league for that matter.

    Said Kramer: "We just like baseball. Period"


    Latest Podcast

    From her love of Taylor Swift to a late-night Yik Yak post, Olivia Beam describes how Swifties at U.Va. was born. In this week's episode, Olivia details the thin line Swifties at U.Va. successfully walk to share their love of Taylor Swift while also fostering an inclusive and welcoming community.