A mayor, a governor, and four Racing Presidents stepped onto a baseball diamond, and thus began the 2021 Virginia State Little League Majors Tournament.

Hundreds of young athletes and their families from across the Commonwealth descended on Yeonas Park in Vienna yesterday (Thursday) to kick off the five-day competition to crown a state champion, who will advance to a regional tournament for the chance to potentially play in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 19.

The day mostly consisted of formalities, from a recitation of the Little League pledge to ceremonial first pitches thrown by Gov. Ralph Northam, Town of Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert, and a representative from tournament sponsor Dominion Energy.

But for the players, it was an occasion for socializing and celebrating, a welcome return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a cancellation of the 2020 Little League season. There was nary a mask in sight, aside from those donned by the catchers behind the plate for the first pitches.

“It’s exciting, especially [since] we get to play here at our home field,” said Tommy Weithman, a third baseman and occasional pitcher for Vienna National, which won the District 4 title last week.

The proceedings began with the 16 teams competing in the tournament lining up in numerical order by district behind the refurbished Cedar Park Shopping Center for a Parade of Champions.

Led by the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department’s antique fire engine, the parade pulled out of the strip mall at 5:40 p.m. and headed down Patrick Street straight to the park, where the teams were greeted by cheering parents as well as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt — the Washington Nationals’ four Racing Presidents mascots.

Once the teams were assembled on the Fred Crabtree Field outfield grass, District 4 Administrator Ellen Witherow introduced Northam, Colbert, and other dignitaries in the audience and acknowledged the many volunteers making the event possible, including the crew of umpires.

A color guard from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, took the field to set the stage for singer DC Washington, who belted “The Star-Spangled Banner” with the same commitment that has made him a mainstay at Nationals Park.

Northam and Colbert’s first pitches both went high, though the mayor got hers close enough to the strike zone for the catcher to snag it.

While cases have started to climb again in Virginia and the U.S. as a whole, Northam described the Little League tournament as a heartening milestone in the state’s efforts to curb the novel coronavirus’ spread and vaccinate residents. It is easily the largest event to come to the Town of Vienna since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

“People have done the right thing in Virginia,” Northam said. “We’re getting people vaccinated and getting people out and about, so it’s really an exciting night, and I know it’s exciting for these players and their families.”

Vienna National center fielder Credan Reasons, who also does some pitching and first base, says not being able to play last year was “a real big bummer,” so it has been a joy to reunite with his teammates, many of whom carried over from the team that won the District 4 championship in 2019.

He attributes Vienna National’s continued success to the fact that all of the players get along with each other, adding that “it’s an honor” to be able to host the tournament, something Vienna last did in 2004.

“It’s going to be really fun playing in front of a lot of people and playing in my town, just like I said,” Credan said. “…I love baseball, and I love playing, especially here in front of this many people. It’s just going to be fun.”

Now that the ceremonial portion of the tournament is over, Vienna National pitcher Andreas Millradt is eager to take the mound and show off the skills that he has been honing since he was 6. He struck out 12 in a 59-pitch perfect game for this year’s District 4 semifinals, the Sun Gazette reported.

“[My approach is] really just do my best and rally my teammates, because together, we can do anything,” Andreas said.

The tournment’s first game started today (Friday) at 9 a.m., and the final game for the state championship will begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday (July 27). The full game schedule can be found on the District 4 Little League website.

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Morning Notes

Governor to Throw First Pitch for Little League Tournament — The 2021 Virginia State Little League Majors Tournament kicks off at 5:30 p.m. today in Vienna with a Parade of Champions led by the Washington Nationals Racing Presidents. Opening ceremonies begin at 6:15 p.m. at Yeonas Park with Gov. Ralph Northam and Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert throwing out the first pitch. [Town of Vienna/Facebook]

Idylwood Substation Timeline Extension Supported — A State Corporation Commission hearing examiner recommended approval of Dominion Energy’s request to extend the timeline for construction on its Idylwood substation until Dec. 31, 2026. The project has frustrated residents, but Holly Crest Community Association President Lori Jeffrey expressed hope when contacted by Tysons Reporter that requiring the utility company to file quarterly construction status updates will bring some degree of accountability and prevent a repeat of this past spring. [SCC]

Merger Floated for Tysons Company — Tysons-headquartered Cvent, a private event-management company with around 4,000 employees, will merge with Dragoneer Growth Opportunities Corp. II and become publicly traded, according to The Wall Street Journal. “The company isn’t commenting on WSJ speculation at this time,” spokesperson Nevin Reilly told Tysons Reporter. [WSJ]

Police Department Adds First Data Director — “Fairfax County Chief of Police Kevin Davis has hired Dr. Noah Fritz as the Department’s new Director of Crime Control Strategies & Data Analytics. Dr. Fritz will be a key contributor to Davis’ data-driven strategy, which aims to guide FCPD’s approach to fair and effective policing through the collection, analysis and sharing of statistical information.” [FCPD]

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Fairfax County Public Schools is planning to launch an esports program later this year (via Axville/Unsplash)

Some Fairfax County student athletes won’t be headed to courts or fields this winter, but instead, to computer labs, as the 10th largest school district in the country prepares to launch an esports program.

The Fairfax County Public Schools athletic director detailed the new initiative to Tysons Reporter, saying the new program will connect students in high schools through a popular, soccer-like game — in which players drive futuristic cars — called Rocket League.

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for our students,” said Bill Curran, director of the FCPS Office of Student Activities and Athletics, noting how students will have another way to fit in. “I think we’re going to have 25 highly competitive schools in the esports realm.”

While concerns about students’ screen time have persisted, even as the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to adopt virtual learning, competitive online gaming has become increasingly popular, with both high schools and colleges getting in on the esports action.

The market research firm Newzoo reported in March that esports viewership increased from nearly 398 million people globally in 2019 to nearly 436 million in 2020 and could potentially reach 474 million this year.

The NCAA governing board voted in April 2019 against bringing esports under its purview, even as the association noted the rapid growth of esports on NCAA campuses.

“You’re going to see this ball roll faster and faster,” Curran said.

ESPN launched a new initiative to cover esports in 2016, though it shut the division down last year. In 2018, it became the first TV network to air a professional gaming contest in prime time for the cartoon-style multiplayer online battle game League of Legends.

YouTube and Twitch have also streamed content that’s worth billions of dollars and expected to grow annually, though that’s just a small slice of the video game industry.

The Virginia High School League, which governs sports, activities, and competitions in public schools throughout the Commonwealth, introduced esports as a pilot program in 2019 before approving it as an “emerging activity” for the 2020-2021 school year that could become sanctioned as an official VHSL activity.

Fairfax County Public Schools is currently looking for coaches to participate in its esports program, which has been in the works for more than two years and will operate under its Activities and Athletics office. Some teachers have already shown interest in helping, according to Curran.

Students will have to pay a $64 fee each season through a startup company PlayVS, which provides computer games and requires students to maintain eligibility through grades and attendance. FCPS is looking at ways to prevent the fee from becoming a barrier to participation.

With schools expected to open for in-person learning five days a week this fall, FCPS plans to have students participate in existing computer labs, rather than remotely. Like a traditional sports team, Curran says Fairfax County’s esports teams will likely have jerseys.

“Our kids, you know, they’re already playing the games,” Curran said. “They’re ready to go, and they’re eager for us to start this.”

Photo via Axville/Unsplash

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Vienna National, winners of the District 4 tournament, will play in the Virginia State tournament. (via Vienna Little League/Facebook)

The Town of Vienna is about to become the center of Virginia’s Little League baseball world.

For the first time since 2004, Vienna Little League will host the Virginia State Majors Little League tournament, which will take place at Yeonas Park (1319 Ross Drive SW) from July 23-27.

VLL is working with the Town of Vienna and other partners to put on a parade, opening ceremonies, and lots of games to determine a state champion who will represent Virginia in the U.S. Southeast regional tournament, all leading up to the Little League Baseball World Series on Aug. 19.

Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert says getting to host the state championship tournament is “a real honor” not just for local players, but for the town as a whole.

“Our Vienna Little League has been hard at work for months organizing what I’m sure will be a class A event, and our town’s business community is sure to benefit, too, as it welcomes players, coaches and families,” Colbert said. “Vienna has many good family-friendly restaurants and businesses that are perfect for traveling families. I am looking forward to attending opening day and to watch our state’s exceptional teams compete.”

The tournament will feature 16 teams from around the state with Vienna National representing the Town of Vienna and District 4 after winning the district’s under-12 championship last week. The event is expected to bring 800 to 1,000 people from across the state, according to VLL.

The festivities will kick off this Thursday (July 22) with teams checking in, a Parade of Champions at 5:30 p.m., and opening ceremonies at 6:15 p.m.. Games will be Friday through next Tuesday with the champions being crowned on Tuesday (July 27) at 10 a.m.

“We are having a parade of champions prior to the opening ceremony,” VLL Board Member Lynn Jacquez said. “The teams will parade down Patrick Street, from the Cedar Shopping Center to Yeonas Park, where they will be greeted by the four Nationals Racing Presidents as they enter the park. And we’d love to have our neighbors and town citizens line the streets to applaud.”

The tournament is free for spectators and open to the public. There are sponsorship opportunities for businesses that want to support the event.

Community members can also participate as a Vienna ambassador, helping visiting teams find restaurants or things to do in town during their downtime. Anyone interested in being an ambassador can contact Vienna Little League at [email protected].

“Volunteer resource and support resources in the town of Vienna and then the Town of Vienna [government] itself is just an unbelievable youth sports supporter and someone that we can rely on and are relying on,” Jacquez said. “The fire department, the city staff, the police department, everybody is just stepping up, and wholeheartedly. And that’s Vienna, right? We are the town of champions!”

The baseball gods have looked favorably on Vienna this year.

In addition to Vienna National winning the Little League District 4 championship, James Madison High School’s baseball team earned its first state title since 2015 in June on a stellar outing by James Triantos, who was drafted 56th overall by the Chicago Cubs on July 12.

Photo via Vienna Little League/Facebook

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Morning Notes

(Updated at 8:15 p.m. on 7/23/2021) Fairfax County School Board Members at Nats Park During Shooting — Karl Frisch and Megan McLaughlin, who respectively represent the Providence and Braddock districts on the school board, were at Nationals Park on Saturday (July 17) when gunfire outside the stadium sent fans running for cover and suspended the game. Three people were injured in the shooting, including a woman who was attending the game, according to police. [Karl Frisch/Twitter, Megan McLaughlin/Twitter]

Virginia Announces Universal Broadband Plan — Gov. Ralph Northam announced a plan on Friday (July 16) to invest $700 million to make broadband services universally accessible throughout the state. The funds will come from the state’s $4.3 billion federal COVID-19 relief allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act. [The Washington Post]

Mosaic District Art Gallery Presents New Show — The Torpedo Factory Artists Association will present the results of its regional painting competition at The Gallery @ Mosaic (links corrected) from July 23 through August 22. With more than 30 paintings from nearly 400 submissions, the show will the association’s first regional painting showcase and give the pop-up gallery its first in-person reception since it recently reopened after closing for the COVID-19 pandemic. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

McLean Little League Softball Teams Celebrate Strong Seasons — “It has been the case for many years now, so it was no surprise that McLean Little League all-star girls softball teams again had strong showings in recent state tournaments, with one squad winning the championship and two others finishing second.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County Urges Adolescents to Get Vaccinated — The health department will host three COVID-19 vaccine clinics at public schools this week in an effort to vaccinate more people aged 12-17. The Pfizer vaccine, the only one authorized for that age group, takes five weeks to take full effect, so students have to get their first dose by July 19 to be fully vaccinated when the school year starts on Aug. 23. [Fairfax County Health Department]

Madison HS Baseball Player Drafted by MLB — The Chicago Cubs chose James Madison High School graduate James Triantos with the 56th pick of Major League Baseball’s 2021 draft, which started Sunday (July 11). Drafted as a shortstop, Triantos ended his tenure with the Warhawks in June by throwing six perfect innings and scoring the two runs the team needed to win its first state title since 2015. [James Madison HS/Twitter]

Fairfax County Students Build Houses — “Each year, 15-20 Fairfax County high-schoolers hang drywall, use power tools, and learn technical and life skills that come with building a home. None has proved as challenging as the 2020-2021 covid-wrought academic year.” [The Washington Post]

Wolf Trap Welcomes First Go-Go Band — When it takes the stage on Sunday (July 18), Trouble Funk will officially be the first go-go band to ever play at Wolf Trap National Park’s Filene Center, according to frontman “Big Tony” Fisher. The band has been making music for over 45 years and will perform with guests Sugar Bear and DJ Kool. [WTOP]

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Left to right: Olympic athletes Andrew Seliskar, Chioma “CiCi” Onyekwere, and Trevor Stewart (via University of California — Berkeley, University of Maryland, and North Carolina A&T)

Several Olympians competing on the world stage in Tokyo this summer can trace parts of their athletic journeys back to Fairfax County.

Swimmer Andrew Seliskar, discus thrower Chioma “CiCi” Onyekwere, and runner Trevor Stewart all qualified for the 2020 Olympics, which will take place from July 21 to Aug. 8.

The games were delayed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will be held without spectators after Japan announced on Friday (July 9) that it would enter a fourth state of emergency starting today (Monday) due to rising cases of the virus.

Seliskar, who graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in 2015, is taking on his first Olympics after two previous qualifying attempts at ages 19 and 15, including one where he “narrowly missed” a semi-final spot.

As a student, he broke a national high school record for the 100-yard butterfly in 2014 near Richmond with 53.24 seconds, and he won four national titles swimming at the University of California in Berkeley before becoming a professional swimmer.

The 24-year-old McLean native told Fairfax County Public Schools that he relishes his competitions against high school rivals.

“Those were great memories, and for my swimming career, those are some of the best ones,” he said.

He also told WJLA-TV that his Olympic dream began swimming with a youth swim team, the McLean Marlins.

Heats for the men’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay are scheduled for 6-8:30 a.m. EDT on July 27, and the final will air from 9:30 p.m. EDT on July 27 to 12:05 a.m. EDT on July 28.

Robinson Secondary School graduate Onyekwere will represent Nigeria at the Olympics, since she is a dual citizen of that country and the U.S.

“I feel like Nigeria made me the person I am today, so it’s so nice to give back in some kind of way and represent them,” she told FCPS.

The Michigan-born former University of Maryland athlete currently holds Nigeria’s discus throw record of 63.3 meters, which she set in April in Chula Vista, California, as part of the Nigerian Olympic Trials.

The 27-year-old engineer works for Ford and relocated back to Fairfax County last fall to be with family amid the pandemic, FCPS noted.

The qualifying round for the women’s discus throw is 8:30 p.m. EDT July 30, and the final is 7 a.m. EDT Aug. 2.

Stewart, who graduated from South County High School in 2016, will run the 4×400-meter relay race for Team USA.

His teammates include a fellow student at North Carolina A&T State University. The pair were part of a 4×400 relay team that won national titles this year for the indoor and outdoor track seasons, capping his senior year.

The 24-year-old switched from karate to track and field when he was in ninth grade. To prepare for the upcoming games, he has turned to prayer and meditation, according to FCPS.

“I worked hard for this,” he told FCPS. “There’s always room for improvement, but I’ve made it right now. I’ve made it right here.”

Heats for the men’s 4×400 meter relay are slated for 7:25 a.m. EDT Aug. 6 and 8:50 a.m. EDT Aug. 7 for the final.

The Tokyo Olympics will feature a total of 339 events across 33 sports. They will be broadcast and live-streamed in the U.S. by NBC.

Photo composite via University of California — Berkeley, University of Maryland, and North Carolina A&T

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Morning Notes

PIVOT Grant Application Deadline Today — This is the last day for hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses affected by the pandemic to apply for COVID-19 relief funding from Fairfax County’s PIVOT grant program. The application portal will close at 11:59 p.m. [Fairfax County Government]

COVID-19 Mostly Spreading Among Unvaccinated People Now — “From December 29 to June 25, 99.7 percent of new COVID-19 cases have occurred among unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Virginians, according to VDH. Those residents made up 99.3 percent of hospitalizations and 99.6 percent of deaths over the same time period.” [Virginia Mercury]

McLean Nonprofit to Raffle Off Nats Memorabilia — “The McLean area branch of the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) used-book sale, its annual charitable fund-raiser, has been postponed again due to lingering effects of COVID-19. Instead, the group will hold a substitute fund-raiser featuring [Washington Nationals pitcher Max] Scherzer memorabilia, along with a request for contributions to support education and local scholarships for women.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Help Clean Up Nottoway Park This Weekend — “Join us at Nottoway Park on Saturday, July 10th, to celebrate Latinx Conservation Month, and help manage invasive plants, visit some sheep, and learn how to care for plants. Nottoway Park is located at 9537 Courthouse Road in Vienna, VA.” [Palchik Post]

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Morning Notes

Metro Starts Testing New Faregates — As of Friday (June 25), Metro has installed new faregates at six rail stations, including the ones at Dunn Loring and West Falls Church, as part of a one-month pilot that will eventually see more than 1,200 gates replaced systemwide. The new faregates have “enhanced safety features, larger displays, and faster processing that will make passing through the gates quicker and easier.” [WMATA]

Telecom Company Settles Kickback Lawsuit — Level 3 Communications, a telecommunications and Internet service provider company with offices worldwide, including one in McLean, will pay a $12.7 million settlement in a civil lawsuit alleging that its managers accepted kickbacks to direct government contracts to specific contractors. [Patch]

Madison Wins Baseball State Championship — James Madison High School’s baseball team won the fifth state title in school history, the most for any Northern Virginia school, on Saturday (June 26) behind a dominant performance by senior James Triantos, who pitched a complete game with 12 strikeouts and gave up just one hit and one earned run to the Colgan Sharks. [WDVM]

Vienna Seeks Playwrights for Festival — “The Town of Vienna is calling all Actors and Playwrights ages 16+ in the DMV! The Vienna Playwriting Festival is looking for 6 actors and 6 short plays. Please email [email protected] for details. Submission deadline is June 30.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Metro to Phase Out Diesel Buses — The Metro Board of Directors approved a plan yesterday (Thursday) to phase out buses powered by diesel and natural gas over the next two decades with the goal of having a zero-emissions fleet by 2045. The transit agency will start adding electric buses in 2023 and cease purchases of emission-producing buses by 2030, a timeline that critics argued is too slow. [The Washington Post]

Approval of West Falls Church Plan Anticipated — “The Fairfax County Planning Commission, at its scheduled meeting next week, is expected to endorse the proposed amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan that will open up the potential for a large-scale coordinated development of WMATA’s West Falls Church Metro station property and adjacent property occupied by Virginia Tech.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Mosaic District to Open Rollerskating Rink — The Mosaic District in Merrifield will hold a grand opening celebration for its new Skateland rink from 5:30 to 10 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday). The disco-themed event will feature live music from the band Groovalicious and support Pride Month with 50% of ticket sales going to FCPS Pride. [EDENS]

Madison Baseball Vies for State Title — James Madison High School’s baseball team is set to compete in the 2021 Virginia High School League Class 6 state tournament tomorrow after defeating Lake Braddock 6-0 on Tuesday (June 22). If the Warhawks win, it would be the program’s first state championship since 2015 and its fourth ever. [Sun Gazette]

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