2014 Honor Roll Recipient: Stephen Boudreaux, Northwest Arkansas MSBL

Biographical Information:

Your name: Stephen Boudreaux

City or town of residence: Fort Smith, Arkansas

Age: 46

League name: Northwest Arkansas Men’s Senior Baseball League (NWAMSBL)

Town where league is based: Bentonville, Arkansas

Where did you grow up? I was a US Air Force “Brat” which means I grew up “everywhere”. My father, who was a Rescue Helicopter pilot in Vietnam, turned the Air Force into a career. It seems he would be transferred every year for us until my senior year of high school.

High school and college, if applicable:I attended four different high schools in four years eventually graduating from Gosnell Senior High School in Gosnell, Arkansas. Ironically, the University of Arkansas was my father’s and mother’s alma mater and despite having only lived in Arkansas for my one senior year of high school, I ended up attending the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and have been here ever since. Graduating with a BA in History in 1990, UA School of Law and an additional BSE in Secondary Education in 1992.

What do you do for a living? Being schooled to be a school teacher, somehow I ended up in the technology and telecommunications fields soon after graduation and am a Technical Consultant for AT&T with an office in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Family information: I am married to Brin Marie Boudreaux and we have four children, Nathan Ray (21), Madison (18), Parker (17) and Alexander (14). We have also adopted into our home our great niece, Brooklin (4).

General Questions:

Describe your baseball resume: I was and never have been a “star” baseball player. Sure, I was a perennial All Star from T-ball all the way through AAA American Legion having a hard time recalling if there was ever a year I did not make an All Star team. However, I was a yeoman player spending most of my youth on the left side of the infield and being the only knuckleballer in most any league I played. Considering the above referenced “moving every year” condition of being an Air Force BRAT, it was difficult getting on anyone’s radar for scholarship consideration. Having received a few small college offers, I decided to concentrate on my education at the University of Arkansas rather than pursue a tryout there. But I can claim that having started with T-ball at age 5, Little League, Babe Ruth, American Legion, NABA, and eventually the MSBL, I have been blessed to have been able to play baseball for almost 40 straight years (missing one year between the transition from NABA to MSBL…played s***ball that year and it was awful.)

What is your greatest baseball moment, either watching or playing? This is an easy question for me. In 2010, I had negotiated, with the help of my friend and board member Patrick Taliaferro, an arrangement with the new AA Minor League affiliate of the KC Royals, the NWA Naturals, to play our league championship games at their field. The field, Arvest Ball Park, had been named the #1 professional playing surface in America and needless to say, our membership was ecstatic. However, more importantly, 2010 was also the year my son, Nathan, whom I coached from his T-ball days all the way to high school, turned 18 and was finally eligible to play in the MSBL. Nathan joined up with my squad, the NWA White Sox. Every team was gunning for the chance to play at Arvest Ball Park. Fortunately for me, I was fielding my best team to date centered on eventual league MVP pitcher, Evan Neiser, and the White Sox made the championship game at the Minor League park. My greatest moment was taking my position at second base on a pristine diamond and turning to look over my shoulder into right field to see my son. Smiling. Giving me a little nod, “Hey Dad…this is awesome. Love you.” We took home the championship trophy that day and I hold back Dad tears every time I re-live the moment.

When did you start playing for MSBL and how did you hear about it? I was playing NABA ball through college and into grad school and soon after that league got into some management issues. I was actually appointed the chapter president the year the district folded which was 1995. I missed playing baseball in 1996, but caught on with a team in the relatively new NWAMSBL in 1997 by way of a few friends that had transferred to the MSBL from the NABA.

Do you still play? YES!

What team and age bracket? My team is the aforementioned, Northwest Arkansas White Sox (www.nwasox.com) and spent the first 13 years in the 18+ MABL and the last 5 years in the 25+ MSBL

What is the best thing about your league? By far, the best thing about our league is our people. I was elected to League President in 2002 and fought some serious conduct issues early on. It has been the character of our membership that has allowed our league maintain and be successful in our small way. Great friendships, great business referral resources, great community involvement.And best of all, we get to play this great game TOGETHER.

Do you participate in any MSBL national tournaments? Unfortunately, in my 27 years playing organized amateur adult baseball, I have never participated in a national tournament. I started a small regional tournament hosted by our league called the Arklahoma Shootout for the benefit of charity, but also for the benefit of those of us that are too busy or restricted from making the trip to Arizona or Orlando. I love the tournament environment and even though the Arklahoma Shootout has missed the last couple of years due to economic impacts, we hope to continue it again starting in 2015.

What is the funniest thing you have ever witnessed on a ball field? Two years ago, my team drafted an unpicked player from the draft. We didn’t really have room on our squad, but as League President I have always worked hard to make sure that everyone that wants to play, can. This fellow was 33 years old and had NEVER played organized baseball in his life. He loved the game and decided that he wanted to give it a try. He even was taking private lessons at the local cages to learn how to throw, hit, and catch in the same groups usually reserved for the Little Leaguers. Recall from above, that my team had won the league title in 2010 and repeated in 2011.This was 2012 and we were gunning for a trifecta which doesn’t generally leave space for learners. However, his attitude was infectious. We made sure he got playing time and he understood his role as a “mop-up” sort of player and accepted it. Facing some fairly decent pitching, in the number of at-bats he was getting, he wasn’t getting many opportunities to make contact at the plate.Having gotten his first hit after 27 plate appearances was a huge moment in the history of the White Sox. What became our funniest moment (of many) was the day he received his first every HBP. Not really knowing how to properly turn away from an inside pitch, he lurched like one of those air-blown display dancers at the used car lot and got grazed on the back of the helmet. Normally, when a guy gets plugged by a fastball especially in the noggin, he doesn’t say a word. As a matter of fact, in baseball’s unwritten code, if you get hit by a pitch, you don’t rub it nor do you utter any sort of indication that it hurts. In THIS case, the guy was blabbering like a 6-year-old schoolgirl that stepped on a thumbtack. I think we lost count of the, “Oh God’s!” As team manager, I would normally get to a downed player fairly quick to assure he is OK or to protect, but this time, I KNEW he was unhurt by the sheer amount of blabbering. If you had been there…hilarious.

Questions just for fun

Who is your favorite player of all time and why? Derek Jeter. I am a die-never Yankee fan since age 9 and have had many Yankee heroes. But Derek Jeter trumps them all by sheer class and charisma.

Who is the best player in the majors right now? Mike Trout (and I was writing this on my laptop while the 2014 MLB All-Star Game was broadcasting in the background…and Trout walked away with the MVP trophy just now. So there!)

Who is the greatest pitcher of all time and why? For my generation, Nolan Ryan. Power, fire, panache, and the numbers. But I have a soft spot in my heart for the knuckleballers. Phil Niekro came to visit a friend of his who was coaching my Little League team in Florida in 1980 while he was still with the Braves.I was the only 12-year-old that showed interest in the knuckleball and Phil spent about 30 minutes with me that day helping me develop the pitch. So…he’s pretty great to me.

Are there any additional personal comments you wish to add about your playing or life thus far? I am a torn busy-body. I have never worked super hard at really anything I have ever done, but I have been extremely fortunate to have above-average talent to be able to be moderately successful in just about anything. The ole, “Jack of all trades, master of none” kinda guy. I have another hobby passion aside from baseball and that is music. I have been drumming since I was 9-years-old and have been playing professionally since age 12. I have as many (maybe way more) personal highlights behind the drum kit as I do on the baseball field. I was hired to be the drummer for Bo Diddley in 1997, have performed on countless stages around the country headlining festivals and concerts including a headline concert in front of 20,000 in Oklahoma City in the year 2000. My primary band since 1999, Oreo Blue (www.oreoblue.com) has released 10 Indie albums that have sold in over 40 countries around the world. I became a singer/songwriter early on and have focused as much on that over the past decade as I have drumming, but drumming is the passion. I perform also with a classic rock/pop rock cover band called The Uncrowned Kings (www.theuncrownedkings.com) which has been chosen to headline festivals such as the second largest motorcycle rally in the USA (Bikes, Blues, BBQ). We open for Foreigner on August 29th…ya’ll should come.

Are there any comments about MSBL you wish to share? The MSBL could possibly be the greatest community service option for men ever invented. That ONE year I was relegated to playing s***ball (it was a co-ed team to boot) was quite possibly the worst year of my life. There have been far too many eloquent nostalgia-isms written and said about our iconic pastime to mention. It has been ingrained in our American history and etched so deeply in our hearts (we MSBLers) that sometimes it is hard to separate the massive responsibilities of our daily life requirements from our need to get to the ball field on a Sunday afternoon and brave 106° heat to complete a double-header.Some of us have gone way past our physical prime and some of us have even entered into the realm of embarrassment, but we fight on to get that next at-bat or ground ball and hope that we still have something in the tank to help the team. Some of us in leadership positions (team managers or league presidents) endure blown-up email inboxes or maxed-out cell phone plans to make sure that others can still play. My father, whom I mentioned was a Rescue Helicopter Pilot, had his “Jolly Green Giant” squadron motto, “That Others May Live.” I have always found that beautiful. And his job rescuing downed fighter pilots was life or death. Very serious business. But in some sort of way, the MSBL should also carry that motto.”That Others May Live.” Having the opportunity to play real, competitive baseball at age 46 having never played college ball or pro ball might just be saving my life. It is fulfilling my soul to walk up to the field on a Sunday and see the faces of my friends and know that we will be entering the field together…in fellowship.To smell the smells and hear the sounds and feel that leather mitt creak in your palm. Man…I am seriously going to hate walking away when that day comes.Besides…I STILL maintain that infield dirt cures cancer. I just haven’t been able to prove it yet. So, thank you MSBL for keeping my soul alive.