In 2003, the Peninsula Pilots, a collegiate summer league team in the Coastal Plain League, was young in its history, playing ball for just their fourth summer and in pursuit of their first ever divisional victory.
A pitch came and Ryan Zimmerman, an infielder from the University of Virginia, sent the crackling sound of a wooden bat home run across the seats of War Memorial Stadium.
The sound of the bat was an audible connection: one to the past and one to the future.
Zimmerman led that '03 Pilots team to the division title but, more simply, that crack of the bat was one of great foreshadowing. It was a sound he would hear for the rest of his professional career. For Zimmerman, the summer ended, he went back to school and was drafted the following year by the Washington Nationals with the fourth overall pick in the draft.
For the Pilots, Zimmerman's selection was simply a microcosmic example of a much larger goal: give the players a chance to showcase themselves to the baseball world and continue on with their careers. Three seasons before Zimmerman, in 2000, that goal became a reality. 20 seasons later, in 2019, that reality continues.
Over the last 20 seasons, the Pilots have played host to 153 ballplayers to sign a contract or be drafted into affiliated professional baseball. 11 of them, a list includes Zimmerman, Deck McGuire, Jharel Cotton, Chad Pinder and more have gone on to make their major league debuts.
However, for 20 years, the players that come through the confines of War Memorial Stadium are connected to a past reaching far longer than the Pilots do.
The stadium was built in 1947 by then-Dodgers general manager, Branch Rickey: a man now known as the father of the Minor Leagues. It was built for minor league baseball and has seen Hall of Famers touch its storied dirt. Duke Snider hit home runs in its batter's box and Satchel Paige threw his final professional pitch on its mound.
So, in 2019, when the Pilots take the field for the 20th season in the Coastal Plain League under head coach Hank Morgan, its players will become part of its lengthy history. Each crack of the bat will sound like those from the late 1940s, each signing or draft pick to professional ball connected to that of Ryan Zimmerman. So, in 2019, 20 seasons after the birth of the Pilots and 71 years after the birth of the stadium, how will history be written?