By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press
WAYNESBORO — Valley Baseball League will celebrate 98 years of pitches and home runs this summer, and the Waynesboro Generals are ready to deliver a winning season for its 71st season.
What would have been the team’s 70th season did not happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everybody’s back on board and excited as far as getting back to normalcy,” said Tyler Hoffman, general manager of the Generals.
While excited to play 42 games as one of 11 teams in the league, Hoffman said normalcy this season will include players wearing face masks while on buses, and everyone’s temperature being checked.
Trips to other divisions will be limited.
For example, Hoffman said that when the Generals travel north, they will play a double header, and when teams travel south to Waynesboro, double headers will also be played.
Hoffman said that this means more local games for the Generals this season, “which, I think, families will appreciate.”
“[Double headers eliminate] that extra travel” and possible exposure during a pandemic, Hoffman said.
Opening night is Saturday, June 5, in Staunton for the Generals.
On June 6, the Generals will play their first double header against Strasburg.
As a precaution against complications caused by the pandemic, Hoffman said the team will have 34 players instead of its usual 30.
“Obviously, I hope we can complete a full season. That would be anybody’s goal [in 2021],” Hoffman said.
Winning games is “part of having a good season,” he said, but playing for the Waynesboro Generals also helps team members develop as baseball players before they return to college in the fall.
Hoffman said that the summer league recreates the feel of the Major League Baseball season, and gives players a taste of playing full-time professional baseball.
“And it’s all baseball,” Hoffman said of the summer season.
Between practice, workouts and staying active in the local community, members of the Waynesboro Generals eat, sleep and breathe baseball all summer.
“We have a lot of players in Waynesboro play professional baseball [later],” Hoffman said. “All of these guys who come here, that’s ultimately their goal.”
Michael Brosseau of Indiana played for the Generals in 2015, and was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019.
Zac Cole, who lives in Florida and is pitchers coach full-time for the College of Central Florida, joined the Waynesboro Generals as manager in 2019.
Cole played for the Generals in 2004, and for three years managed in New Market before coming to the Generals as manager.
He said he knows the Valley Baseball League means a lot to communities along Interstate 81 during the summer.
“So, it was pretty unfortunate we weren’t able to play last season,” said Cole.
In 2019, according to Cole, the Generals were 31-11, and two players were close to being drafted to Major League Baseball.
This season, University of South Carolina’s Wes Clarke and East Carolina’s Connor Norby are expected to get drafted by the MLB.
“But we’re on the field and baseball will be back in the Valley,” Cole said of the 2021 season.
Between the team’s owners, Hoffman as general manager and this season’s team members, Cole said everyone is confident about having a winning season in 2021, because they “feel like we’ve got a lot of pieces of the puzzle.”
“We’re excited about the team that we have,” he said.
Cole said that the Generals “want to try to win the Southern Division,” but, first and foremost, the team’s focus is the Waynesboro community.
Playing as a Waynesboro General means being away from home and living with a host family in the area, and, according to Hoffman, host families are still needed for players this summer.
If you would like to host a team member of the Waynesboro Generals, email [email protected], or reach out on social media.