by: Julia Stumbaugh
Last August, the Charlottesville Tom Sox hoisted the Valley Baseball League Championship Trophy. Three months later, the Houston Astros were named victors of the 2017 World Series. At the time, these two championships, one in a summer ball league and one on the biggest stage in baseball, didn’t seem to be linked. But with the conclusion of the 2018 MLB Draft, the two franchises now share a common connection— both have selected Michael Wielansky to play with their organization. Wielansky joined Tom Sox alumni Seth Lancaster and Layne Looney in hearing their names called in the later rounds of this year’s draft, giving three ball players who once spent their summers in Charlottesville the chance to play in a major league system.
Wielansky’s name will sound familiar to Tom Sox fans; his frequent appearances at bat in 2017 shattered records and led the franchise to its first championship in history. The holder of nearly every Charlottesville batting record, Wielansky tore up the Valley Baseball League last summer, connecting for 67 hits in just 37 regular season games for a batting average of .432. He maintained a batting average of over .400 in seven playoff games as well, getting 13 more hits as well as eight runs. Those eight runs included a clutch game-winning tally in the title game over the Strasburg Express, completing a Tom Sox comeback after going down 1-0 in the best-of-three championship series. He was named League MVP and Best Hitter by the VBL for his standout season and his role in Charlottesville’s 2017 VBL title. Wielansky followed that notable summer up with one more dominant season at Wooster in 2018 before getting selected by Houston as the 552nd overall pick.
Two more Tom Sox alumni were also called up in the 2018 MLB Draft. Seth Lancaster, part of the inaugural roster when the team was formed in 2015, put up 42 hits and 39 runs in 39 games for Charlottesville during that first summer. Three years later, the Coastal Carolina alum’s name has been selected in the eighth round by the Philadelphia Phillies. Layne Looney, right-handed pitcher and University of Richmond senior, was named to another recent World Series champion with a selection by the Chicago Cubs. One of Wielansky’s teammates on the 2017 squad, Looney pitched 24 innings in 12 games on the way to a championship with the Tom Sox, striking out 41 batters for a 2-1 record.
Wielansky, Lancaster and Looney will join the ranks of other big names in Tom Sox history to be chosen in the MLB Draft. Lancaster is now the fourth member of the 2015 inaugural roster to get a call from a major league team. Billy Cooke, teammates with Lancaster on both the 2015 Tom Sox team and at Coastal Carolina, was named in the eighth round by the Seattle Mariners in 2017. Cooke put up 28 hits and 20 runs for the Tom Sox in their first season and was the first player in team history to be drafted. He has since played 94 games in the minors with the Clinton LumberKings. Two other 2015 teammates, Kyle Davis and Brett Pope, were also picked up in the 2017 Draft by the Astros and the Pittsburgh Pirates, respectively.
The Tom Sox have seen six of their players named in the MLB Draft in the team’s brief history. Nevertheless, no alum has ever played a game with a major league team. Wielansky, Lancaster and Looney now have the opportunity to make history for Charlottesville with their selections last week.