By DAVID DRIVER
Daily News-Record 1/9/21
Lisa Hart remembers as a young girl sitting on the wooden bleachers in New Market at Rebel Park and watching baseball games in the Rockingham County League.
“My grandmother was sitting there crocheting,” Hart said Friday. “That is the earliest memory and actually watching a ballgame.”
Her grandfather, the late RCBL Hall of Famer Bobby Strickler, helped bring a New Market team to the league in 1964. Now Hart – who was born a year later and played basketball at Stonewall Jackson High – is the first woman commissioner of the RCBL.
She takes over for Randy Atkins, who held the post for two years and will stay on to work in media relations and with interns with one of the oldest amateur circuits in the country.
“Lisa truly loves the RCBL,” New Market manager Nolan Potts, part of the team in some fashion since 2014, wrote to the News- Record on Friday. “She knows the bylaws of the league inside and out so she’s been a great resource whenever I’ve had a question about anything.”
It has been a memorable few months for women in baseball: Kim Ng was named the general manager of the Miami Marlins in November and Bianca Smith, who played softball at Dartmouth, will become the first Black woman to be a coach in the minor leagues when she was hired earlier this week by the Boston Red Sox.
When Atkins decided to step down, Hart was approached again from other members of the board of directors about taking the top spot. She has been president of the New Market Shockers since 2004 and has been on the board of directors for the RCBL.
“I was very reluctant,” Hart, a graduate of Stonewall Jackson High, told the News- Record on Friday. “They were pretty insistent they wanted me to do it.”
Timberville resident Hart works at Valley Protein as a route supervisor in transportation and has a daughter, 12, who is very involved in softball. Hart also does a lot of volunteer work with local churches.
“I prayed about it a whole lot,” Hart said of the new RCBL role she decided to assume now.
“She grew up in the league,” Atkins said Friday. “I decided to step back” as commissioner.
Hart played junior varsity and varsity basketball in high school. She said being the first woman commissioner doesn’t have much meaning.
“It really doesn’t. I told Randy, ‘I guess there is no way I can avoid having that title.’ I don’t want to be known as the first woman as much as what I can do for the league and the game of baseball,” Hart said. “It was something that was bred into our family and I just want to continue that legacy of my grandfather and so many before him.”
“We have some great baseball in this Valley. These kids these days are so much into their cell phone they don’t know the greatness of baseball played on cow pastures,” she added. “I hope my granddaddy is looking down and knows I am doing it for him.”
She will remain as president of the Shockers. Her husband is Mike Hart. The RCBL commissioner before Atkins was Mike Bocock, who played baseball at Turner Ashby and was a manager for several years in the Valley Baseball League.