Buckeye Local grad Laase lands new manger gig in Valley Baseball League
The clock is ticking on George Laase’s time in the Valley Baseball League.
Next summer will be his 13th season in the VBL, which is located in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, as a player, assistant coach and manager. However, it will be his first as manager of the Strasburg Express, one of the VBL’s charter members along with Winchester, Woodstock, Front Royal and Edinburg.
“I’m excited to be a head coach again,” the 37-year-old Buckeye Local graduate said via telephone last week. “This league has always been well-respected.”
The VBL was founded in 1897 and has evolved from a Class D minor league to an NCAA-sanctioned league in 1961 operating under NCAA rules. The league went to wooden bats in 1993. More than 1,100 former VBL players have made it to the major leagues.
“Being a head coach is always something I have cherished and I’ve respected,” he noted. “To get a chance to manage a team in this league is something that doesn’t come along every day. I’d like to thank Strasburg for giving me this opportunity.”
Laase, a former WVIAC Player of the Year during his days at Fairmont State, started his VBL career as a player with the Staunton Braves. He also served as an assistant coach and later as manager of the Braves for five seasons. He was an assistant coach of the Harrisonburg Turks for the past two summers.
“I’m not sure how much longer I have left,” he admitted. “I would like to put together a run and get a championship ring. That’s what you play for … trying to win championships.”
Winning is something that the Express are used to. They claimed back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016 and finished runnerup last season. In fact, Strasburg has advanced to the Lineweaver Cup four times in the past five campaigns, and fifth in the last seven.
“That’s a credit to their organization. They’ve got a great group of volunteers and the host families are fabulous,” he praised. “They have fundraisers that include the community. It’s something like we had in Staunton.”
One big change for Laase will be the facilities. Staunton and Harrisonburg both had nice home fields (Harrisonburg played on artificial turf at James Madison University) while Strasburg uses the local high school diamond.
“It’s a grass field with dirt on the infield,” Laase explained. “When you’re a manager in this league you’re invested with the team from the time you wake up every morning in the summer.”
He said his duties, in addition to managing the game, will range from getting the field ready for each home game to making out his daily lineup card.
“I’ll be involved in every aspect of the game,” he acknowledged. “I’ve missed that part of the game.”
Strasburg general manager Parker Neal thinks he has found the right man to keep the Express rolling.
“More so than being a good baseball coach, we just think George is a great human being,” Neal told the Staunton News Leader newspaper. “He carries himself the right way. He does things the right way. That was kind of the most important thing to us.
“Players want to play for him, players like him,” Neal continued. “That’s really important in regards to summer ball, kind of keeping these kids motivated and keeping them wanting to come back to the ball field every day.”
Laase has hired an Ohio Valley product as his assistant coach/pitching coach. Collin Scott, an Edison grad who played baseball at Franciscan University and Mount Union, will join the Express.
“When I got into this business I always told my father that I would try and do my best to help out any Valley boy,” he said. “I’ve done that in the past and I am doing it again.”
Laase has always been a baseball guy. He always will be.