June 6 - When it comes to showcasing the baseball teams at its largest schools, the Virginia High School League is failing.
While surrounding states have placed an emphasis on creating an exciting environment for teams - with semifinal and championship games held on fields at major universities or minor league ballparks - the VHSL hosts those games for its top two classifications on high school fields.
It’s bad enough that the semifinals begin at 10 a.m. on a Friday, so only adult fans taking off work and students who are either playing hooky or out of school for the summer break are able to attend. And now this year, they’ve decided to hold the finals for Class 5 and Class 6 at high school fields roughly 10 minutes from each other … at the same time, 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The VHSL just doesn’t get it. Or maybe, it just don’t care about creating a big-game atmosphere for its student-athletes.
Let me state that this is no knock on those Richmond-area schools, Glen Allen and Deep Run, which have very nice complexes. They just pale in comparison to what the state’s governing body for private schools, the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association, has in place for its teams. Or where the VHSL holds the championship games for its four smaller classifications. Or the venues that host the final four in nearby states such as Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia.
The VISAA holds the semifinals and final for all three of its classifications at Shepard Stadium in Colonial Heights, a beautiful historic ballpark south of Richmond. The championship games for the VHSL’s two smallest classifications are held on the turf diamond at Radford University’s stadium, and the finals for the middle classifications are played at Salem Memorial Stadium, a 6,300-seat park that serves as the home of the Single-A Salem Red Sox.
In Maryland, the larger schools have their state semifinals held at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda, the home of Georgetown University. They then play the championship game at Ripken Stadium, the home of the Single-A Aberdeen Ironbirds. Big schools in Pennsylvania have their semifinals and final at Penn State. In West Virginia, the semifinals and final for all three classifications are held at Appalachian Power Park, the home of the Single-A West Virginia Power.
Down in North Carolina, the best-of-three state championship series for its four classes are split between the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and at Five County Stadium, the home of the Single-A Carolina Mudcats. Across the Potomac in Washington, D.C., the city championship game is hosted on the turf stadium field at the Nationals Youth Academy.
Meanwhile, in Virginia this week, the state’s best four public school teams in its top two classes will play on high school fields.
And on Saturday, media members like myself, college coaches hoping to recruit, and the casual baseball fan without allegiance to any of the four teams playing on the final day of the season will all have to choose between attending the Class 5 final or the Class 6 final.
There are fantastic new or renovated stadiums at the University of Richmond, James Madison University, Virginia Tech, the University of Virginia and at Liberty University. In Arlington, Barcroft Park - the home of George Washington University - has become one of the state’s best facilities during its recent upgrades.
That’s where this week’s Class 5 and Class 6 state tournament games should be held. It’s time for the VHSL to step up its game and provide these teams with the proper setting and platform that they’ve earned.