It’s been fun for me to peruse the Norfolk newspaper – that sadly isn’t located in Norfolk anymore as you might know – this week. Burdened with next-to no live sports to report on, the section for the last little while has turned to its archives for stories to run under a “Our Greatest Hits” banner. A few pieces I did years ago, quite a few years actually, have been pulled from the cobwebs this week, timed with the June 10 major league baseball draft.
I don’t look back a great deal, but reading the stories again was a cool reminder of what a ridiculously fertile baseball breeding ground I was fortunate to write about, particularly in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, where year-round travel ball clubs first took root — to huge effect — in Tidewater.
The stories I’ve linked to below chronicle a staggering blip in time when first-round draft picks seemed to grow on trees on the so-called Southside, and even national reporters showed up to try to figure out what the heck was going on.
- B.J. Upton, the second overall draft pick in 2002, and his brother Justin, the first Virginian taken No. 1 three years later. A 1 and a 2, raised under the same roof, the highest-drafted siblings in draft history. Think about that.
- Ryan Zimmerman, (also linked above) picked No. 4 just a few minutes after Justin Upton 15 years ago. Think about that.
- Mike Cuddyer and John Curtice, just the second pair of high-school teammates (Great Bridge) drafted in the first round, in 1997. Think about that.
- In between them, in 2001, another first-rounder cropped up out of Chesapeake’s Hickory High. Fellow named David Wright. (No link – but man, what a great player and charming guy.)
All of the above went on to log long big-league careers – Justin Upton and Zimmerman are still going, assuming baseball gets off its road to implosion — except for Curtice, a pitcher who barely got off the ground in pro ball because of arm trouble. The paper also re-ran his “whatever happened to” story from 2013 here.
Tidewater remains a strong baseball area, but for nearly a decade, a couple of decades ago, it was as hot as any California, Florida or Texas hotbed.
Truly amazing times. Enjoy the memories.