The Generals are here!

We have ourselves a ball team now. “Can’t do much without the players,” said Brian Lundstrom, in the fall, winter and spring a teacher at Kate Collins Middle School, and in the summer the public-address announcer for the Waynesboro Generals, who begin their 2009 season with an exhibition game Wednesday night against the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks of the Rockingham County Baseball League and then get going in Valley League play Friday night at home against the new VBL team from Rockbridge.

Lundstrom was among the 75 or so locals on hand Sunday for the first practice of the ’09 summer season. Many were from host families who came out to meet the players who will be staying with them for the summer.

Fifteen of the kids were out for the practice and meet and greet. New Generals manager Andy Chalot is expecting to have 23 players on hand by Opening Night, which is pretty good for summer baseball considering the number of kids still playing in the NCAA Tournament and the other number waiting to see if and when their name is called in next week’s Major League Baseball draft.

Summer school can also hit rosters pretty hard, as we know in Generals Land with a couple of our expected starters not likely to be able to join us until the second week of the season because of school-relate responsibilities.

That said, things are looking good for the franchise, the 2007 Valley League champs and 2008 regular-season champs, if just judging from a quick look at the roster. Wingate shortstop Christopher Vazquez’s numbers jump out right off the top – the 5-9, 165-pound freshman hit .363 with a .448 on-base percentage in his first year of college ball in 2009. Another middle infielder with good numbers in ’09 is Auburn shortstop/second baseman Casey McElroy, a 5-9, 180-pound freshman with a .276 BA/.376 OBP who hit seven home runs for the Tigers in the rugged SEC.

Auburn teammate Tony Caldwell, a 5-9, 185-pound sophomore catcher, who will split time at catcher and DH for the Generals this year, hit nine homers in ’09.

One kid I’m particularly excited about is Concord junior Brooks Cullen, a fellow Wilson Memorial alum who will pitch this summer for the Generals but could also play some outfield and do some pinch-hitting for us as well. The lefty was 6-2 for Concord in ’09 in 13 appearances (five starts) with a 2.96 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 48 and 2/3 innings pitched. Cullen also hit .401 with a .473 OBP and drove in 49 runs.

I had the chance to catch up with Cullen’s father, Rodney Cullen, the head coach of the basketball team at WMHS who works on the staff of Wilson Memorial head baseball coach Derek McDaniel, a Generals assistant, at last night’s meet and greet, and it was hard to tell who might be looking forward to the summer more, father or son. I also met the father of Butler freshman pitcher Mike Hernandez, Pete Hernandez, sitting in the stands watching batting practice and long tossing as if it were Game 7 of the World Series.

I have to admit that I was just as riveted by the otherwise mundane. I joined the Generals as the executive vice president and general manager in February, and for four months have been among those pouring my heart, soul and DNA into getting ready for June 5, which for so long was just a date on a calendar.

But it’s upon us now. At this writing, we’re four days away from the opener.

The manager is in his hotel, the kids are with their families.

Like I said earlier, we have ourselves a ball team now.


– Column by Chris Graham

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