Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 8, 2013

Wagner and his new team to scrimmage Richlands today

By GARY FAUBER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BECKLEY — Area baseball fans have the chance today to see where their teams stand before the regular season starts in a few days.

They’ll also get to see a former Major Leaguer in the newest phase of his life.

Billy Wagner, who pitched for five different teams in a 15-year career, will be at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley today as the head coach of The Miller School in Charlottesville, Va.

Four scrimmage games are scheduled, with Wagner’s Mavericks playing two.

“I think the coaches are appreciative and thankful for the chance to play,” said Tim Epling, coordinator of the event and the son of Linda and Doug Epling. “They have cabin fever and are dying to get out.”

Today’s weather forecast calls for sunny skies with temperatures in the mid- to upper-50s. Epling said the field was snow-covered Friday morning, but was cleared in plenty of time for Chapmanville and Richlands, Va., to play later in the afternoon.

“(The weather) is a Godsend,” Epling said. “Some of the teams have not been outside yet. A lot of them have only been in the gym. They’re going to start playing within the next week to 10 days, so this gives them an opportunity to prepare for the season.”

Miller will take on Richlands — a rival of Wagner’s alma mater, Tazewell — at 10 a.m. The Mavericks will then play Nitro, which lost in the 2012 Class AAA title game to Princeton, at 2 p.m.

Independence will play Scott at noon and Liberty and Fayetteville will play at 4 p.m.

Epling said he and Wagner developed a relationship earlier in the winter as Wagner, who started as Miller’s junior varsity coach in 2011, caught word of the stadium and of Epling’s Upper Deck Training Center.

“I kind of joked about it, but I told him he needed to come and play here,” Epling said. “He wanted to anyway, because he had heard of the facility.

“He’s excited. He’s a great person. Not only is he a great baseball player but he is also a great person. When somebody like him wants to come to Beckley and play, it’s a great honor.”

Epling also pointed out that Gary Moore and the rest of the New River Umpiring Association have played a big part in making the weekend possible.

“They come out here and work with these guys and coordinate the umpires for us. That is a big factor,” Epling said.

Admission all day is $5 for adults and $3 for kids.

— E-mail: gfauber

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