Home Summer begins … tonight: The 2022 Valley League baseball season is here

Summer begins … tonight: The 2022 Valley League baseball season is here

Chris Graham
john leonard
John Leonard. Photo courtesy All Things Valley League.

The 2022 Valley League season opens tonight in Strasburg, and then Friday’s schedule has the Waynesboro Generals hosting the Staunton Braves.

Ah, summer baseball. Five bucks for an adult ticket, three dollars for kids, seniors, veterans and active-duty military.

Hot dogs costing what hot dogs should cost.

It’s been a few years – OK, more than a few years – since I shared a radio booth with John Leonard, the founder and editor of All Things Valley League, and the media relations director for the VBL.

Leonard and I called a summer of baseball in Waynesboro back in 2009.

He’s been following the league since 2006, when he launched ATVL.

“I love the combination of small-town baseball, with the chance that these guys might go on to become professional players,” Leonard said. “We have these tiny little communities hosting these players and having these games, and once I discovered it, and it’s weird that I hadn’t before then, but, you know, I was in with both feet, started going to games and writing and meeting the guys, and it’s been all downhill from there.”

Leonard has been around long enough that the first guys that he got to know covering the league for ATVL are coming to the end of their careers, and some have made the transition into coaching.

“One of the best hitters that I’ve ever seen come through this league was Jason Kipnis,” Leonard recalled, thinking back to the future two-time MLB all-star who played in 2007 in Covington, before starring at Arizona State and then becoming a second-round draft pick.

“I could just think back to those days outside the Turks’ old Veterans Stadium, where I walked up to Jason and talked about his season, and we talked about his chances of being named MVP that summer,” Leonard said.

“Same thing, you know, Will Harris, played in this league in 2003. And he’s still active, albeit injured, in the Major Leagues. And now a lot of these guys are coaches, and you know, they’re sending players to the league now. And it’s just a generational thing. It just keeps like a ladder keeps working its way down.”

Leonard took the media-relations job with the league in 2019, which means, basically, he has two jobs in summer baseball now, with his website and now the official one with the league.

One thing about summer baseball that most people don’t know: the games might only be played in June, July and the first week in August, but it’s a year-round thing to get everything ready for the sizzle of the fastball, the crack of the bat, the smoke from the grill wafting over the field.

“It’s quite a bit more work that goes on behind the scenes,” Leonard said. “Everybody gets to see the product on the field, but to get those kids there, the recruiting process, there are some recruiters in the league that they will travel all over the country, and meet college coaches and meet the players and do tons of background research on these guys before they come.”

Between that, and lining up sponsors and host families, and the work getting a new league website live, it’s a passion play.

The summer begins … tonight.

Story by Chris Graham


Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].