By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
They say great things can be found in small packages. Welcome to Rhode Island, home of the Rhode Island MSBL. Established in 1989, this league could boast more talent per square foot than any other state in the country. Rhode Island consists of a total of 1,214 square miles and houses only 1,059,000 residents. With a league that is composed of 21 teams, you can see that roughly 350 of the state residents are playing ball in the league. That’s pretty impressive.
“Our league started over 30 years ago and after several years of operation, Dave Saad took over as league president and stayed on as President until he turned over control somewhere around 2015 to both myself and Frank Ribezzo,” explained co-president Kevin Curt.
There are three age divisions ages, 30+, 40+, and 50+, and begins play in May and usually winds down in mid-October after playoffs so that many of the players can get to the national tournaments, where they are very well represented by many championships.
“We have had MANY teams win National Championships in tournaments,” said Curt. “The Salty Dogs, Sea Dogs, and Brewers have been our most recent National Champions and tournament winners.”
2020 was a challenge for all leagues and some never were able to construct a season. How did the year play out for you?
“We played an abbreviated season last year, complete with many struggles with state restrictions on public gatherings that we needed to overcome. We are very proud of the efforts of all of our teams, and especially our league managers who gave it their all to make last year happen.”
Kevin began playing in the league in 2004 after trying out other leagues in the area. “I had played in other men’s leagues, but the competition, camaraderie, and tournament options were enough to lure me to RIMSBL full time. I then became co-president in 2015, along with Frank Ribezzo, who is recognized as our league president. We share operational duties for our league.”
What challenges did you face when you and Frank took over? “When Frank and I officially took over, our league was in turmoil. We were losing players and teams due to attrition and lack of interest. We had reached our lowest number of teams since the early years of our inception. Since Frank has become league president, our league has stabilized, and we have experienced growth in each age division.
Managing through the pandemic has been difficult, as we lost many fields and several players who chose not to participate due to Covid concerns. Through those challenges, we have continued to grow and hope to gain back those players who we lost because of the pandemic. We are now seeing increased growth in all divisions. It is very gratifying.”
To experience the ups and downs of a 32-year-old league and still be standing tall must be greatly satisfying.
“When Frank and I witness players of all ages and abilities come together to play baseball it gives us tremendous satisfaction. We always celebrate talented players and teams, but sometimes we tend to forget that the more “casual” ballplayer also has a place in the RIMSBL.
It is so memorable to see our league come together at our annual banquet and recognize our newest inductees into our Hall of Fame. The reason for the success of our league is the players who are our ‘founding fathers, many of whom still play and help with different parts of the organization. We have also been very fortunate to welcome new players and teams to our league who have become a part of us.”
What would you consider a major accomplishment of the league since you and Frank to over?
“We are able to offer a high-quality baseball experience for all different levels of player at a very reasonable price. That remains our most important accomplishment. Our families also remain the reason why we are able to remain kids and play the sport we’ve played all our lives.”
Any final thoughts?
“Our relationship with MSBL has been a partnership that has lasted decades and we feel fortunate to be a part of this association. I would advise new league presidents to not take on every responsibility themselves…and always remember that the league exists because of the dedicated players, past and present.”