Ridge Fuller, the Purcellville Cannons’ general manager and third-base coach, is bursting with enthusiasm about his team’s upcoming season of summer league baseball. As he likes to say it, they’re “loaded for bear.”
But he’s even more pumped about the Cannons’ brand new home: the historic ball park known as Fireman’s Field in Purcellville.
“Purcellville has been extremely welcoming to our team,” 25-year-old Fuller said. “And Fireman’s Field is an amazing facility with a rich history of baseball. We tell our players, ‘you’re going to be playing in the best baseball venue in the entire league.’ We’re absolutely thrilled to call this place home.”
The Cannons play in the Valley Baseball League, consisting of 11 teams, all in Virginia. The league goes back to 1897, when it was formed as a Class D professional minor league. (It switched to a collegiate summer league in 1961.) The teams are made up of invited college players who want to improve their game while out of school and gain exposure to Major League Baseball scouts.
The Cannons also have a rich tradition: they’ve won seven VBL championships since joining the league in 1958.
Because the VBL is NCAA- and MLB-sanctioned, the players aren’t paid or compensated for their play. They live with host families during the 44-game season—all of June and July, with a brief post-season to determine a league champion—and the team is allowed to provide players one meal a day, often provided by sponsors.
“This is a great way for amateur college players to spend their summers. They get to sharpen their baseball skills while playing a very high level of competitive baseball,” Fuller said.
The VBL is similar to Single-A minor league baseball (the first of three rungs to make it into the big leagues). Fuller notes that of the 30 collegiate summer leagues going on across the country, his league ranked fourth overall for player talent.
“Our league motto isn’t called ‘The Gateway to the Majors’ for nothing,” Fuller said with a laugh.
Fuller owns the team (as a not-for-profit) along with his father and grandfather. His father, Brett, 51, also serves as the team’s head coach. The Fuller clan, who are long-time residents of Berryville, has a long history of playing, coaching and supporting organized baseball. In fact, all three personally played the game at various levels at Fireman’s Field.
“There’s always been a special place in our hearts for the field,” Ridge Fuller said.
“There are not many facilities in the U.S. that offer up the baseball history Fireman’s Field has. It’s also a beautifully maintained field,” Cannons Head Coach Brett Fuller said. “I have vivid memories playing on it as a high school student. Our family is excited we’re bringing the highest level of baseball to Fireman’s since its founding in 1890.”
The family bought the team in 2012 when it was known as the Luray Wranglers. In 2013, they renamed them the Cannons and moved to a high school stadium in Charles Town, WV—becoming the first team in VBL history to play outside the state of Virginia.
This will be the Cannons first season in Purcellville.
The Valley Baseball League is highly accomplished, sending numerous players on to successful MLB careers.
This includes the Washington National’s star second baseman, Daniel Murphy, who played two years with the Luray Wranglers before being drafted by the New York Mets in 2006. Murphy is well-remembered for his remarkable performance in the Mets’ 2015 postseason run to the World Series (which they lost to the Kansas City Royals), becoming the first-ever player to hit six consecutive postseason homers.
Other notable MLB-ers with time in the VBL include Mo Vaughn, Mike Lowell, Aubrey Huff, Steve Finley, Clint Robinson and David Eckstein.
This year’s Purcellville Cannons will also host a number of talented players receiving looks from MLB teams. And two of them are local products.
Cousins Matt and Will Reed were high school baseball standouts for Purcellville’s two high schools. Matt Reed, a Woodgrove graduate, was selected as a high school baseball All-American in 2010-11 and now catches for Marshall University, where he maintains a 3.7 GPA. His cousin, Will Reed, a Loudoun Valley graduate, is an accomplished pitcher throwing heaters for Hartford Community College.
“Matt’s acknowledged as one of the best defensive catchers in the country,” Fuller said. “And Will recently tagged 95 mph on a radar gun, which is pretty remarkable for his age. He’s already getting interest from the Milwaukee Brewers.”
Fuller’s proud VBL games are affordable and family oriented. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, and $2 for children (12 and under). He says the team will have multiple dining options and they just received VBL approval to have an outfield-area beer garden serving local craft beers.
He says Cannons’ fans will enjoy all the amenities of a top minor league park, with quality baseball played on the field each night.
The team will also be active in the community, hosting youth baseball camps, participating in area charity events, and holding regular player meet-and-greet opportunities for fans.
“I seriously doubt we’ll ever move away from Purcellville. It’s a fantastic baseball environment and a great community,” Fuller said. “We know our players are going to love it and we think fans will be thrilled with the level of play and the family-friendly atmosphere.”
The first home game is Friday, June 3, 7 p.m., against the New Market Rebels, at Fireman’s Field, 250 Nursery Ave., Purcellville. For more information, call 703-777-0343 or go to purcellvillecannons.com.
More on the Purcellville Cannons