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Cannons preparing for first shot in Valley League

March 26, 2013|By TIM KOELBLE | koelble@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Entertainment during the summer months in Jefferson County won’t be limited to the local racetrack or casino. The new kids on the block are the Charles Town Cannons, a member of the 12-team Valley Baseball League, which celebrates its 90th season this year. Don and Brett Fuller purchased the Luray (Va.) Wranglers last year with the intent of moving them to Charles Town and becoming the first West Virginia entry in the history of the league. “We are certainly looking forward to the opportunity to play here,” said Brett Fuller at a Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce mixer at Charles Town City Hall on Tuesday. The Cannons will begin their season on May 31 against Strasburg (Va.) at Sager Field in Shenandoah Junction, home of the Jefferson Cougars high school team. Fuller, who is also the head baseball coach at Middleburg Academy (Va.), said the organization plans to make upgrades to Sager Field, already a fine high school facility. The head coach is 25-year-old Bobby Rauh, an Orlando, Fla., native. He played at Florida State, played for the Winchester Royals in the VBL and was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 2009 Major League Baseball first-year draft. He left pro baseball after spending the 2011 season with the Class A Rome Braves. He is coaching the 18U Orlando Scorpions travel team. His assistants will be Chris Barnett and Jake Hendricks. Steve Sabins, in his second year as a graduate assistant coach at Oklahoma State University, is the general manager. He was the head coach of Winchester last season. “We’ll have 31 players and the active roster will be 28 players,” Fuller said. “Most of the players will have played one year in college, or are not playing but still have a year of eligibility left. “I think we can be a really good team in the first year here,” Fuller said. “We got the chemistry with a good mix of Division I and II and junior college players.” The Valley Baseball League has produced several recognizable alumni over its history. Those on current major league rosters are Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets, former Baltimore Oriole Mark Reynolds, who is now with Cleveland, and Yonder Alonso of San Diego. Aubrey Huff, who played with Baltimore and San Francisco among other teams, is an alum, as is Jimmy Key, who won 186 games in the majors pitching for Toronto, the New York Yankees and Baltimore. The Cannons will be a member of the Northern Division and play a 44-game schedule. Home games will begin at 7:05. Fuller said ticket prices are likely to be $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for children under 12. Among those serving on the Cannons’ board of directors are Jefferson High School baseball coach John Lowery, former Martinsburg baseball coach — now the softball coach — John Lowery Jr. and Washington assistant baseball coach Mike Smith. Fuller said the organization is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. “The league is supported by Major League Baseball and endorsed by the NCAA,” Fuller said. “Last year, the league received money that helps fund us league-wide and will be doing so again this year.” Other VBL teams are based in Strasburg, Front Royal, New Market, Aldie, Waynesboro, Woodstock, Harrisonburg, Winchester, Rockbridge, Staunton and Covington. Fuller said the organization will also conduct Junior Cannons Baseball Camps in June and July. Information for those and other functions are listed on the team’s website at www.charlestowncannons.com.

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