2015 MSBL Co-Men of the Year: Duane Cordrey and Alan Van Ness

Duane Cordrey 2015 MSBL Co-Man of the Year

Duane has consistently demonstrated commitment and leadership in making the Chesapeake MSBL one of the fastest growing adult baseball leagues in the country. Prior to Duane taking the reins as President in 2006, the Chesapeake MSBL had dwindled to a single 25+ Division with six teams. Since then, the Chesapeake MSBL has expanded to a three division league with 29 teams in 2015. In 2016, the Chesapeake MSBL will add an 18+ Division to their existing 25+, 35+, and 45+ Divisions.

Furthermore, Duane continues to host six All Star Games against nearby leagues to raise awareness and funds for designated National MSBL Charities as well as serving as the Tournament Director for the Chesapeake MSBL’s Mid-Atlantic Labor Day Classic and Mid-Atlantic Columbus Day Classic Regional Tournaments in the fall. These tournaments prepare teams for the competition they will face at the MSBL World Series and Fall Classic. Many participating teams of these tournaments have gone on to win National MSBL World Series and Fall Classic Championships.

“When I became President of the Chesapeake MSBL in 2006, my vision was to grow our league to a 30-team league in ten years or less,” said Duane. “Unfortunately, I came up one team short of my goal in my tenth year. When I became our league President, I knew I had to work hard to provide our members with more than just an opportunity to play baseball. My goal was to create a family-like culture where players would speak positively about the league, its players, the competition level, the playing facilities, and most importantly, how the league operations were conducted.”

“In the 29 years of our National Organization , I have been truly blessed to meet so many outstanding men who have contributed to the long standing position of MSBL and equally many today who help ensure our perpetuity for decades to come,” stated MSBL Founder and President Steve Sigler. “It is very important that these men get their recognition for all that they contribute. One of the most tireless and continuous contributors is Duane Cordrey. In addition to being a fine gentleman, husband and father, he is a trusted advisor, friend, and most respected leader.”

“Duane has tangibly contributed to the MSBL with his excellent articles of “Fund Raising” and “Friend Raising”. He is a tireless worker who contributes over $1,000 each year to our National Charity, has expanded his league from 6 teams in 2006 to 30+ in 2016 and works charitable causes in his local area, as well.”

“Duane also runs two MSBL Regional Tournaments each year and is more than a capable player, himself. He is not only distinguished by his most notable accomplishments but also by his vision. He will chair the 2017 MSBL/MABL ALL National Teams, correlating with our 30th anniversary. The entire organization benefits from his efforts and passion.”

“Duane, congratulations on being the 2015 Co-National MSBL Man of the Year!” – Steve Sigler

Over the past ten years, Duane reached out to several area businesses to pursue partnerships and sponsorships that could assist with providing additional benefits for the Chesapeake MSBL. Duane refers to partnership and sponsorship pursuits as “Friend”-raising. (Click here to read Duane’s feature articles on Fundraising and Sponsorships.) “In 2015, we had our greatest revenue stream of corporate and individual contributions, donations, and grants than any previous year.”

The Chesapeake MSBL has established an enviable relationship with the Baltimore Orioles and participates in the Orioles “High Five” Fundraising program for non-profit organizations. For each ticket sold by a team in the Chesapeake MSBL, the team retains $5 for offsetting team baseball expenses. In 2015, the Chesapeake MSBL sold more than 1,500 Orioles tickets, which resulted in more than $7,500 raised. The Baltimore Orioles recognized the Chesapeake MSBL for their successful fundraising campaign by inviting Duane to throw out the first pitch at Camden Yards. “To be honest, I was nervous. I didn’t want to embarrass myself by ending up on ESPN or baseball bloopers for throwing the ball in the dirt, into a dugout, against the backstop, or worse yet, hitting the Oriole Bird mascot!” Duane did what any MSBL player would do in that situation, he threw a strike!

Duane organizes the annual “Battle of the Beltway” Charity All Star Games between the Chesapeake MSBL All Star teams and Larry Lombardi’s DC MSBL All Star teams to raise awareness and funds for the designated National MSBL Charity. “Players from both leagues have a great time and share a great sense of camaraderie and sportsmanship tied to bragging rights.”

The Chesapeake MSBL has consistently donated more than $1,000 to the designated MSBL National Charities since 2006. “We donated a check for $1,500 to the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team for the funds raised from our All Star Games played in 2015,” explained Duane. “This amount is very small in comparison to the bravery and courage the members of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team displayed on the battlefield fighting for the ideals that keep our country and our allies safe. We are forever grateful to those who gave their last full measure of devotion so we might continue to live in freedom.”

Near the end of the 2015 baseball season, the Chesapeake MSBL was given exclusive access and use of a newly built baseball field located near the Maryland State Capital Building in Annapolis. The field was funded by the backing of Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, the Honorable Michael E. Busch, who also serves as the Deputy Director of the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation & Parks. “I received a call from the Department of Recreation & Parks to attend a meeting with the Leadership of the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation & Parks to discuss complaints of deteriorating baseball field conditions and limited baseball field availability for our league’s use,” explained Duane. ” I invited our Vice President, Alex Brunet, and two long-time team managers, Tom Finch and Mike Gordon, to attend the meeting with me since they all had more than 20 years tenure in the league.”

Prior to this meeting, the Chesapeake MSBL’s organizational documents, meeting minutes, and financial records were requested to be reviewed as part of an audit they wanted to conduct on the Chesapeake MSBL. “I didn’t know what to expect or what their intentions were, but we provided everything they requested.” Based on the findings, the Chesapeake MSBL was awarded exclusive use of a new baseball field and was provided a maintenance grant for the field. “It was clear to us that we had earned their trust and confidence,” Duane further stated. “We are very pleased to be the only adult sports league to be recognized by the Anne Arundel County Department of Recreation & Parks as a community athletic organization and be presented with our own baseball facility. The Chesapeake MSBL now has greater authority and flexibility to improve and maintain some of the baseball fields we use. ”

According to Duane, the Chesapeake MSBL’s greatest accomplishment in 2015 was the presentation of their organization’s first scholarship. The Chesapeake MSBL awarded a $1,000 scholarship to Edward Nottingham, III, the son of Chesapeake MSBL player and Hall of Famer, Ed Nottingham, Jr., for his extraordinary efforts in organizing and conducting a day-long baseball clinic for underprivileged and underserved at-risk youth. The baseball clinic was well attended and attracted the attention of local media, as well as Pittsburgh Pirates All Star Outfielder, Andrew McCutcheon. (Click here to read the feature article on this project. Click here to read a follow up article to this story and view the video created to document the project by clicking here.) 

“I have watched Ed grow up from a young boy to a mature and responsible young man,” said Cordrey. “We are very pleased to award Ed Nottingham III with the very first Chesapeake MSBL scholarship. He has inspired many with his dedication and performance in sharing his time, talent, and love of baseball to teach baseball skills and life lessons of teamwork, sportsmanship, friendly competition, and overcoming adversity to at-risk youth. The purpose and timing of his baseball clinic helped a community heal from the turmoil caused by the arson, looting, and violence that erupted from the riots that took place a few blocks away just weeks before . Ed has a very bright future ahead of him and we extend our best wishes for his continued success.”

When asked to comment about what the MSBL means to him, Duane’s response is one that is heard quite often. “The MSBL has given me a long list of lifetime friendships from all over the United States. Steve Sigler is to be commended for the organization and culture he, Gary D’Ambrisi and Brian Sigler have created by establishing the MABL/MSBL. They have brought so many of us together through the game of baseball and have forged friendships that transcend the game itself. The MABL/MSBL is family. As a league President, I value the friendship and mutual respect shared with MSBL Presidents throughout the country that I have met over the years and their willingness to share advice, experiences and lessons learned. I appreciate the encouragement and support I receive from our league Officers Alex Brunet (VP), Jason Tores (Secretary), and Tad Trias (Treasurer) and from all of our team managers and players. I share and celebrate this recognition with them. They are the steady hands on the rudder that guide the Chesapeake MSBL on the course of continued growth and success.

Alan Van Ness 2015 MSBL CO-Man of the Year

Alan Van Ness is the President of the Sacramento Men’s Senior Baseball League, the poster child for successful leagues within the MSBL family. Sacramento boasted 73 teams in 2015 and are looking for even more growth in 2016, possibly nearing 80 teams. Alan is a marine, discharged in 1991, and shares life with his lovely wife Teena and the kids, Justin, Heather, Levi, Stacy and Shelbee. Justin earned a full PHD Scholarship at Notre Dame after completing his BA & BS degrees at UC Riverside. His PHD will be in Sociology and he desires to be a professor when he completes his schooling. He is projected to complete in 2018, but he’s on the fast track and will finish in 2017. Their other son Levi served seven years in the Army that included two tours in Afghanistan, while making it home safely.

Alan has been a part of the SMSBL since 1996, after answering an ad in the paper, and has been at the helm since 2014. 2015 was a tough year for the Van Ness family but for all of Alan’s dedication to baseball and family, MSBL President and Founder Steve Sigler has honored Alan as the 2015 CO-MSBL Man of the Year

Alan put together a synopsis of this past year and we have left it ‘in his own words.’ He can best explain the highs and lows of this past year and what this award means to him. 

By Alan Van Ness — 2015 started off very difficultly for my family. In February my wife Teena was in the hospital for a week with pneumonia. In March, while I was at baseball practice, I received a call that my wife had a stroke and the ambulance took her to the hospital yet again. She had a slow but thankfully full recovery. In May I heard a loud “pop” in my knee and had surgery in August. It was determined I suffered from advanced arthritis. However, I was determined to get back on the mound.

After surgery I only managed my Sacramento Rockets all summer and supported my Sunday League team the Sacramento Dragons, as well as carrying on with all other SMSBL business. I was fortunate enough to play and pitch for the Sacramento Bulldogs in the 2015 MSBL World Series the last week of the tournament. This followed my opportunity to play against the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team, the same guys I was involved with bringing to Sacramento in July. I could now be on the field with other MSBL Military Veterans from all around the country. This was an honor I will never forget and was proud to represent MSBL as well as Sacramento. Once a Marine always a Marine, and I felt that way that day.

MSBL Founder and President Steve Sigler had this to say about Alan:

“I am extremely proud to announce the CO-MSBL Man of the Year, Alan Van Ness. This is an incredible recognition of only a second year President, yet his accomplishments in his initial two years are that outstanding! The Sacramento MSBL was one of the first MSBL affiliated leagues in 1988 (our initial year) and has an incredibly rich history of excellent league leaders in Val Lewis, Jerry Karnow, Jim Tygrett and now Alan Van Ness. The continuation of passion, vision, and outstanding administration ability is unprecedented. Each SMSBL League President has had extremely supportive boards who energize and move forward the ideas generated by the SMSBL League Presidents.

The growth of the Sacramento MSBL/MABL under Alan has been phenomenal, which now includes a 65+ division, led by Jim Tygrett – and expanded Spring and Sunday Leagues. More and more teams and players from other leagues continue to join the premier adult baseball league in Sacramento. In 2015, under the leadership of Alan, the SMSBL raised $5,500 for the Wounded Warriors generated by their All Star game and Father/Son tournament at the AAA stadium in Sacramento. In 2014 they went the same route to collect baseball equipment for players in the Ukraine and Nicaragua.

The SMBL has always prided themselves in the quality of their field complexes and under Alan’s leadership, this goal continues to excel. They are working with Sac St. University to build two AAA fields to be opened in 2018. Alan is also working with a brother of a very famous Sports Agent to donate two new LED Scoreboards for their current complex.

Alan is a proud military veteran and participated in the 2015 MSBL World Series event with the MSBL Military Veterans who played against the WWAST players. He is a truly humble man, a dedicated, creative and loyal person and with all of this and above listed qualities, projects, and accomplishments, he is certainly a clear choice for a 2015 MSBL Man of the Year.

Congratulations to you and your family on this most distinguished award!”

Alan continues — The Sacramento MSBL is thought of as one of the premier leagues in this country and to be leading it and assisting in its growth is very humbling. This league takes a large board to operate and all of the board members have given me support and backed ideas. I pride myself on listening to what the league members would like to see. We all work to juggle four leagues, 14 championships and 73 teams. To sustain something like this is our biggest challenge. We don’t always agree but we still accomplish the same goal: Quality Baseball.

In 2015 we used our Sunday All-Star game along with our Father/Son Tournament held on Father’s Day weekend to raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team visiting Sacramento. My employer, Aerojet Rocketdyne, asked for my help with obtaining Raley Field, home of the AAA Giants. Once A/R and Safe C.U. locked in the date I was determined to use this as a way to highlight the SMSBL as a Community involved league and not just our own needs. This was one of the proudest events I have ever been a part of. In 2014 we used the same F/S tourney to collect all used baseball equipment for Nicaragua and Ukraine. We collected so much equipment that we needed to collect some donations to pay for the shipping!

Our SMSBL Complex is the jewel baseball complex of Northern California. It has been taken over by Sacramento State University. During 2015 league vice president Boyce Whitlock, treasurer Gordon Olson and I met numerous times with the City of Sacramento and the University. We were showed 20 acres that the city wants us to use and requested Sacramento State build SMSBL two AAA equivalent fields. When the University builds these and makes us whole we will be moving to a new home, projected in 2018. Overseeing much of this was very time consuming while still trying to do my Rocket job here at Aerojet Rocketdyne. At times it seems like a baseball job with a Rocket problem! By the end of the year I had met with Gerry Boras and he asked his Sports Agent brother Scott Boras to donate two brand new LED scoreboards for our current complex. We can take to the new home when it’s built. I hope to see these installed in early 2016.

In closing I would like to thank my wife Teena J Van Ness for sticking by my side through so many obstacles, while dealing with her own issues. This would be very difficult without her love and support. I especially want to thank Jim Tygrett for helping mentor me through many confusing business issues this league is involved with. Also, every single board member is appreciated and to be included in this recognition….. Boyce Whitlock, Gordy Olson, Mark Vendeiro, Dave Whitesel, Eric Taylor, Steve Morlin, Steve Welch, Ron Williams, Tina Haas and Jane Burkitt.