Royals 40th Anniversary
39 illustrious summers of college baseball have come and gone for the Winchester Royals. June 1st marks the beginning of the organization’s 40th season. Much like the game of baseball, the Royals have experienced an ample amount of change and growth over the past four decades.
Some 150 or so players have been drafted and/or signed to play professional baseball after their tenures with the Royals. Collectively, 31 players have been promoted to a Major League roster. Mark Davidson, Reggie Sanders, Jimmy Key, Adam Everett, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Cory Spangenberg and Tyler Thornburg are among those who made the 'show'.
The Royals have produced league pennants in 28 percent of its seasons while being crowned Valley Baseball League champions 13 times. Three of those championships were produced by the first ever manager of Winchester, Larry Bryant.
“It was quite a thrill and an honor for me to be Winchester’s first manager,” Bryant said. “(The team) got reputation of ‘the new guy in town’.”
After Bryant’s fifth season at the helm of Georgia Southern College, Royals owner at the time Keith Lupton chose him to lead Winchester’s first-ever collegiate summer league ball club.
“I met Keith in a motel in Savannah and we talked for probably three hours,” Bryant said.
“Everything went well in that initial interview. He called me not much longer and said ‘Larry we would love to have you as our manager.’”
Bryant’s tenure lasted three seasons (1979-1981); all of them resulted in league championships. He accumulated a 106-37 record in that time frame and coached the organization’s first no-hitter, thrown by Clay Daniel in 1981.
“I got the best players I could get. Besides talent, I think (we had) a lot of chemistry. We had a great three-year run with players that gelled together,” Bryant said.
Despite the success, the fondest memories of his experience with the Royals were the people.
“The players, the community, the support. I got close to several families,” Bryant said.
The Royals won the next two VBL championships in the first two years post-Bryant. After winning five championships in as many years of existence, Winchester won four more from 1987-1993. The most recent championship came in 2004.
June 3rd marks the 12 year anniversary of the Royals’ first-ever perfect game, thrown by Paul Burnside in 2006. On Opening Night, he struck out 14 of the 27 batters he faced en route a 2-0 victory over Front Royal.
All of this success is partially due to Bryant. He was the catalyst of this winning culture. When he handed the team over in 1981, he had full confidence in future managers to maintain this high standard.
“You always had that optimistic hope. I felt like Winchester had a lot