He didn’t have to say much more. “My priority is my wife,” Jim Critzer told me when I asked him about his decision to sell the Waynesboro Generals, which he had almost singlehandedly saved from oblivion a decade ago, back when it looked like the Valley League original might be moved out of town.
It was a wild ride – the first couple of seasons saw the Generals in the basement in the league standings and attendance akin to what you’d see for your average little league weeknight game, all the way to today, when the franchise is coming off back-to-back-to-back regular-season championships and the 2007 Jim Lineweaver Cup and fan support that some lower-level minor-league franchises have to envy .
But, well, it was just time.
“It’s going to be tough. I’ve been coaching or having something to do with baseball now for 17 years. To be honest with you, the toughest part of this whole thing is going to be next month when they start having tryouts at the high school,” said Critzer, who also stepped down as coach of the Waynesboro High School baseball team on the heels of back-to-back appearances in the Group AA Final Four.
“The thing with the summer is if my wife and I are at the beach, I can hit the computer and listen to every little thing that’s going on. And I can spend some time with my sweetheart,” Critzer said.
It made it easier that Critzer found a buyer in Jerry Carter, who I got to know last summer when I did a story for our sister New Dominion Magazine on his Around the Valley in 60 Days Valley League promotional tour.
“I wouldn’t have sold it to somebody who didn’t have Jerry’s energy and enthusiasm,” Critzer said. “I guess I could have brokered the team out there to different individuals. I really didn’t know anyone locally who would be able to take it and run with it.”
That was what got Critzer involved with the Generals back around the turn of the century. “My concern is when I bought the team from Frankie (Coyner) 10 years ago now, the thing for me back then and today is the fact that at one point in time Frankie might take the team out of Waynesboro, and I didn’t want to see that. I remember my oldest brother Buddy playing for the Generals back in the ’50s when I was a small child going to Gateway Park. I didn’t want to see the team leave this community. That’s a big reason why I bought it to begin with,” Critzer said.
“I don’t know if I can say so much that I’m selling the team as I’m – and giving isn’t the right word, either, because I’m getting some monetary return on it – but I’m handing it over to a person who I think is genuinely concerned about the community and the atmosphere here. And I just hope that people in Waynesboro will embrace him and take him for the fine fellow that he is,” Critzer said.
Critzer is leaving the Generals off in a heckuva lot better shape than he found them in.
“We had some tough years, but we stayed focused on what we needed to do,” Critzer said. “Being able to bring on Lawrence Nesselrodt into this organization as manager was just huge for us. Lawrence, I can’t say enough about him as far as a coach and a person and someone who cares. You can hire a lot of coaches who for them it’s a job in the summer and then they’re going to move on. Lawrence actually cares about this team and about this community. And his commitment to bringing in qualtity players and getting them to produce is just huge,” Critzer said.
He’s also leaving Kate Collins Field in a lot better shape than when he took over the team. “We improved the facility over there a thousandfold. We built the pressbox concession stand, and the school put up six grand for that. I put up $50,000 in that alone. We put the new scoreboard up. We improved the field,” Critzer said. He is still bothered that he did what he did “with basically no help or support from the city at all.” “They’ve never done anything. Not a mention from a soul, the council or anywhere else,” Critzer said. “We were voted the best entertainment three years in a row in the city, but we never got any support from City Council. And that was disappointing. I lost money every season. We spent money. We spent what we brought in plus some.”
“No one asked for tax dollars. It’s a little disheartening as long as I had the team that we basically had nothing from any of the city officials about what was going on,” Critzer said.
It’s all water under the bridge – or washing up on the shore on a warm summer evening at sunset.
“She’s my life,” Critzer said of his wife. “I’m going to miss the high school, the Generals. But I just need to love her up. She’s everything to me.”
– Story by Chris Graham