Tigers, Trotters trample opponents in VCBL
The Tidewater Tigers and Chuckatuck Trotters are two Suffolk recreational baseball teams that take pride in their sport while playing hard.
The Chuckatuck Trotters have a long history in Suffolk dating back decades, but recent events have tied an old organization with a brand new one. Enter the Tidewater Tigers, who are playing in their first season but whose head coach was coaching for the Trotters just a year ago.
Clarence Goodman, the president and founder of the Tidewater Tigers who coaches the team as well, recalls a moment that set off events that led to the Tigers’ creation.
“Last year, I was coaching the Chuckatuck Trotters, and I was riding and looking, and all of a sudden I saw the ball park in Holland at the Holland Community Center, and it was not being used,” he said. “So it was pressed upon me to go talk to the people at the Holland Center about renting that location to start a baseball team.”
After Goodman got the blessing of the owners to play on the field, he came up with the name of the Tidewater Tigers. He reached out to many people about the idea, but eventually Marcus Evans and a few others were the ones he got to help formulate the team.
Evans is currently an assistant coach for the Tigers and is thrilled that a team has come back to Holland.
“Holland has always been such a big baseball town, but we haven’t had a team here for a while,” said Evans. “Now we have a lot of college players playing and a lot of young kids getting involved.”
The league they play for is the Virginia Commonwealth Baseball League, and it consists of 11 teams. This is the first year for the Tidewater Tigers. The league is broken down into two divisions, East and West. The Tigers and Trotters are both in the East.
The Tigers are 5-2, and the Trotters are 7-0. Both are considered among the toughest in the league.
“Everyone is looking forward to us playing each other,” Evans said.
With Goodman becoming the new coach for a new team, the Chuckatuck Trotters had to fill his shoes, and they did with Derrick Whitley. Whitley has been involved with the Trotters dating back to his teenage years, which made him a perfect fit to take over for Goodman.
“I was 16 when I started playing for the Trotters, and I’m 36 now, so I’ve been involved with this organization for 20 years,” Whitley said.
The Trotters used to play in Suffolk but now are in Smithfield thanks to Dave Davis, who provided land in Smithfield for the Trotters to build “Dave Field,” where they play all their home games.
“He just died a little over a month ago, and he was the owner of all that land in Smithfield,” Whitley said. “He had that big field and let the Trotters build a park, so that’s what we did.”
Between the Trotters and the Tigers, so many people come out to play the game, despite knowing that there’s a risk of injury and no money attached.
Their profound love for the game is what keeps them coming back.
“It’s the love of the game and great competition,” said Whitley. “A lot of guys don’t make it pro but just love to play ball, or get injured and can’t play any more, but still want to play at a high level.”
The teams play a 28-game season, not including the playoffs, so the risk of injury can be high.
“Unfortunately, it’s pretty much play at your own risk,” Whitley said. “That’s why we value everyone’s safety.”
A player for the Tidewater Tigers, Tonee Hill, said there are great benefits to playing recreational baseball.
“It’s good for if you’re playing college ball or high school ball,” Hill said. “I play because of the love of baseball.”
Although it is a recreational league, the occasional scout does come by to see what the talent level looks like, and that draws a few of the younger players looking for any opportunity.
“There are one or two scouts that come, and the players do get an opportunity to get looked at,” Goodman said. “They show up to see what the talent is like and they go from there.”
The age of the players varies. Goodman thinks it’s good that younger players can join up.
“You can start to play at 16 or 17 with parental consent,” he said. “It helps to keep them out of trouble. I have a player on my team who is 54 years old starting.”
The Chuckatuck Trotters and Tidewater Tigers play every Saturday and Sunday. Both teams have Facebook pages, titled “Chuckatuck Trotters” and “Tidewater Tigers of Holland.”