A new day for the Waynesboro Generals
Critzer, Gauldin step forward to save Valley League team
Story by Chris Graham
The uncertain future of the Waynesboro Generals was a hot topic of conversation for a lot of baseball fans in and around Waynesboro the past several weeks. Among those talking around the proverbial hot stove were a pair of Waynesboro-based businessmen who decided they could perhaps do more than engage in idle talk.
“I was surprised to hear that the team was up for sale. I read the article in the paper, and of course another article came out, and there was talk that the team might not even be in Waynesboro any longer, and may even fold. And that was disturbing to us,” said Jim Critzer, whose name might be familiar for his successful run as owner of the Valley League team for much of the past decade, before selling the team to Jerry Carter in 2009 and riding off, ostensibly, into the proverbial baseball sunset.
David Gauldin II was at the office at Mathers Construction talking about the articles in the paper when the conversation turned to, Hey, Dave, why don’t you try to buy the team?
“So many sit around and talk about what should be done. I said, Well, maybe it’s time to step forward and be a little more active,” said Gauldin, who with Critzer joined in an agreement with Carter to purchase the team in a deal that was made public on Wednesday.
The purchase still needs to receive the approval of the Valley League. Approval of the purchase by the league is expected to be finalized on Thursday at the monthly Valley League owners meeting in Harrisonburg.
It was a whirlwind year in Waynesboro for Carter, a Luray-based businessman who had been involved with the league for several years in a couple of different capacities, including a self-initiated 2008 promotion that enticed fans to see a game in all 11 VBL ballparks that summer.
Carter’s enhanced PR efforts pushed attendance at Generals games up 15 percent over 2008, but the team still struggled behind the scenes to make ends meet in the down economy.
Things got to a point in the ’09 offseason where Carter made the tough decision to put the team up for sale with the prospect that the franchise might have to fold if a buyer didn’t step forward.
“I just never could find the right group of people that would help me take this thing to the next level,” Carter said at a news conference at Kate Collins Field today.
“When it came time for somebody to step up and say, Put me in, coach, the man found me once again,” Carter said, referring to Critzer.
“We’ve come full circle,” Carter said, symbolically handing Critzer a baseball to signify the change in ownership.
Critzer praised Carter for his efforts to raise the team’s profile in the Waynesboro community.
“We’re really proud of what he’s tried to do with the organization this year and the people that he’s surrounded himself with,” Critzer said.
Carter handed Critzer and Gauldin an organization that was preparing for a 2010 season as if the business side of the operation was on a stable footing. Lawrence Nesselrodt, who managed the team to the 2007 VBL championship, is still on as the director of baseball operations, and Nesselrodt has been working with new manager Ronnie Palmer to get the baseball side of the operation ready for the summer.
“If you were starting from today to play in the 2010 season, it would be on the verge of a disaster. But because of what was done and what has been done here, you’re right up on a par with all the other teams in the league as far as preparing for the 2010 season as far as players and coaches and recruiting,” Valley League commissioner Dave Biery said.
“I think Jerry has handed the ball off to two very capable sets of hands.I couldn’t be more pleased that that happened. Things are going to continue, and I’m sure very well,” Biery said.
Also excited about the news is Staunton Braves co-owner Kay Snyder.
“We’re very pleased to have the Waynesboro Generals continue,” Snyder said. “It just wouldn’t be the same without the Waynesboro Generals. The Staunton fans feel the very same way. We’ve had a lot of people calling that were really concerned about what was going to happen over here.”
Carter is confident that Critzer and Gauldin will be able to take the Generals “to the next level.”
“These gentlemen will be able to get the Waynesboro Generals franchise to where I think it should be, which is the crown jewel of the Valley Baseball League,” Carter said.
More important to Gauldin – “we’re keeping the Waynesboro Generals in Waynesboro.”
“I’m a hometown kid, lived here, grew up here, I went away for a few years for work and school, and back here working again, and it’s been a tradition all those many years. And it’s important that you keep traditions in Waynesboro, especially in these days where business is struggling, the economy is bad. Certainly there’s a lot of bad things in the news. This is something that should be positive,” Gauldin said.
“I’m pretty excited. I love baseball, I love the community of Waynesboro, and looking forward to getting involved with this,” Gauldin said.