Some Botetourt County boys who didn’t figure to play baseball this year just may get to do so after all. Five James River graduates and three Lord Botetourt boys have committed to play in a game for 2020 seniors at Salem Memorial Ballpark on August 1.
The game will be conducted by the Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame and the Salem Red Sox. Seniors from the area served by the Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame have been invited and over 60 boys indicated they would like to play. The Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame area includes the counties of Alleghany, Roanoke, Bedford, Botetourt, Craig, Floyd, Franklin and Montgomery and the independent cities located within the boundaries of those counties. That includes 22 public schools plus North Cross and Roanoke Valley Christian.
Lord Botetourt coach Todd Smith is credited with coming up with the idea. Brae Farrell, Cody Camper and Luke Hale are Lord Botetourt grads who have indicated they will play.
James River coach Matt Gouker has volunteered to be one of the coaches for the game. River seniors who have signed up include Garrett Aaron, Chase Oberg, Kevin Austin, Dyllan McAllister and Hunter Wilson.
“This is the senior class that I had on my first JV team here at River,” said Gouker. “These boys were the eighth graders who came into our program and made an impact all five years, for most of them. I had two young men come back this year because they wanted to finish high school playing the game they loved to play. Being with this senior class and watching them grow as young men and players, it hurts to see this past season pulled out from under them. I think seeing them get recognized and have them play in a minor league stadium will be another high point for me as a coach.”
The 60 plus players have been divided into four teams, according to geography and number of pitchers available, for two games. Following the first game, between Team 1 and 2, all players will be introduced along with their parents, and their pictures will appear on the scoreboard at Salem Memorial Ballpark. Shortly after the introductions Team 3 will play Team 4.
“I think having a game like this is a great opportunity for these seniors to come together and share in an experience that was taken from them by this pandemic,” said Gouker. “When I contacted my seniors about being interested, I had an overwhelming response. They are just so thankful and excited to have this opportunity.”
Allen Lawrence, General Manager of the Salem Red Sox, has been involved in the planning and is excited about the prospect of having some baseball at Salem Memorial. The Salem Red Sox staff will handle all game operations, including field prep, public address announcing, umpires, music, scoreboard and concessions. There will be no admission fees, no fees paid by the players and food and drinks can be purchased at the concession stand. Players will have shirts with their names on the back for the occasion and wear their team caps.
“The Red Sox are purchasing the shirts through sponsors.” said Salem-Roanoke Baseball Hall of Fame Vice President Gary Walthall. “This will be a ‘Game Day’ atmosphere put on by the Salem Red Sox and their staff to honor these senior players. It should be a fun opportunity to honor the seniors and also play on a minor league field.”