George Laase's second season as head coach of the Staunton Braves should be really interesting.
According to the former Buckeye Local, Fairmont State and Barton Braves' infielder, he has a roster loaded with talented players from all across the southeast, and then some.
How loaded is his roster?
"We've got a couple of guys that could be drafted fairly early, while we've probably got eight guys that can go in the top 20 (rounds)," Laase said during a telephone interview last week. "We've really been recruiting a lot."
Staunton is one of 12 teams that play in the Valley Baseball League, which is one of the oldest and most prestigious summer collegiate leagues in the country. It is located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.
"The SVL has been around for a long time," Laase explained. "It is one of the top 5 for college players to showcase their talents. Cape Cod is the best of the best, but the SVL isn't far behind.
"Our motto is the Gateway to the Majors," he added. "This league has produced a ton of talent."
Speaking of talent, the Braves definitely have that as no fewer than 20 Division I players on their roster. However, early on that could have an adverse affect.
"There are probably six or seven guys that won't be able to report on time for the season because their respective teams will be competing in the NCAA regionals and super regionals," Laase noted.
Staunton opens its season May 30 at home against the Strasburg Express at Ted Bosiack Field.
The Braves finished 25-22 last season.
One member of last season's squad - St. Clairsville and Potomac State product Sammy Vincenzo - won't be on the roster. He is recovering from shoulder surgery.
"He was going to come down," Laase said of the former Red Devils' lefty. "He had that arm trouble and was red-shirted this year, but we're still interested in him."
Laase said that most players come to Staunton because it is a stomping ground for professional scouts.
"We lead the league in attendance with about 1,200 fans per game," he said. "We play in a warm climate that doesn't get much rain."
Good News, Bad News for OSU
It was a couple of days where, if you're an Ohio State football fan, you were excited, but still a little saddened.
I'm talking about the recently completed NFL Draft (it is over isn't it?) where 14 Buckeyes were selected. Half-a-dozen were fortunate to be drafted, while the other eight signed as free agents.
The draftees included LB Ryan Shazier (1st round, 15th pick) by the Pittsburgh Steelers; CB Bradley Robey (1st, 31st) by the Denver Broncos; RB Carlos Hyde (2nd, 57th) by the San Francisco 49ers; OL Jack Mewhort (2nd, 59th) by the Indianapolis Colts; OL Corey Linsley (5th, 161st) by the Green Bay Packers; and S Christian Bryant (7th, 241st) by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Hooking up as free agents were S C.J. Barnett (N.Y. Giants); PK Drew Basil (Atlanta Falcons); WR Corey Brown (Carolina Panthers); WR Chris Fields (Washington Redskins); QB Kenny Guiton (Buffalo Bills); RB Jordan Hall (Pittsburgh Steelers); OL Marcus Hall (Indianapolis Colts); and OL Andrew Norwell (Carolina Panthers).
There were 27 former Buckeyes on NFL rosters last season, and by the way it looks, that number could greatly increase this season.
With Shazier and Robey going in the first round, Ohio State has now had 69 players selected in the opening round. That number ranks second among all NCAA schools.
Most of you know that I'm not a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but I do like the pick of Shazier. Yes, I would have liked to see him stay another year in Columbus, but this tackling-machine should make a big hit (hopefully more than that) in the Black-and-Gold.
OSU is only one of three schools (USC and Notre Dame) to have more than 400 players drafted all-time. The Buckeyes have had 411 players had their names called.
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org