By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
We recently sent out a request to Chesapeake MSBL league president Alex E Brunet asking him to answer a few questions for us as we continue to seek the beginnings of some of our pioneer leagues as we celebrate the 35th year of the Men’s Senior Baseball League. The Chesapeake MSBL began in 1989 and has been an integral part of the MSBL fabric for over 30 years. Alex is also a member of the MSBL World Series powerhouse San Antonio Lonestars. Below is the result of our Q&A session with Alex. Enjoy!
What is the history of the league and how did it start? Our league began in 1989 with six 30+ teams and now has grown to 32 in 2022.
What age divisions of play are now offered? 22+, 35+, and 45+.
Were you able to get in a part or all of your season in 2021? We played a complete season in 2021. All teams play a minimum of 22 games and depending on playoffs could play 30.
When does the league begin play and when will it finish, including any playoffs? We begin on the first weekend in May and end in late August/Early September
When did you personally start playing in the league? 1992
When did you become president? I was vice president from 2011 to 2014 then president from 2015 to the present.
Who are the players who have been playing in the league since 1989? We still have two players who have been part of the league since its inception. Bob Engelmeyer and Tom Finch, who still compete in the 45+ Division.
What is your most memorable MSBL moment as a president?
I have many memorable moments but the most memorable for me was taking our league team with no external recruited players and winning a Fall Classic ring in 1998. I think that it would be hard for any team to do that these days.
What challenges did you face when you started the league or when you took over? When I took over, our league was in very good shape in terms of structure, organization, and operational procedures. The biggest challenge was/is to make people in our communities understand that our league has many positives and any negatives that occurred in the past are no longer happening. We always strive to improve our image as a league and donate both time and funding to help local High School and youth organizations. We have seen success and now are seen in a positive light.
What are your biggest challenges today? The biggest challenge is finding sufficient quality fields to play on. Each team plays on Sunday and another game during the week so we need 15-16 lighted fields each week. We have a close relationship with many High School coaches who understand that we can be of great benefit to them.
What gives you the greatest satisfaction? Seeing teams improve as they retain their core group over the years and eventually win a championship. That camaraderie is why we play the game. In 2021 we had one of our “expansion” teams, who are a great bunch of guys, win their first championship after a number of losing seasons.
What do you see for the league in the future? I would like to see our league grow to 40+ teams and also establish a 50+ division.
What is the reason for the continued success of the league? We have seen many leagues fold over the past 25 years and the reason we have flourished is we run it like a business. We have a Board of directors, a league accountant, an attorney, and are a 501C-3 non-profit status. We are active within the community and work with local High School coaches as well as have an outstanding relationship with our county Recreation and Parks Department who work very hard to provide quality playing fields for us.
What part of running the league do you enjoy most? I enjoy seeing positive outcomes to the demands of the players in our league. The number one request is to play at better fields. Our BOD (myself and VPs Mike Maloney and Mike Largent) is constantly working to improve our league. We all take it seriously and it is a year-round commitment.
Two big positives that will happen in 2022 is the county is in the process of installing lights to our Bestgate Park because our league has spent both money and effort to convert it into a quality venue. Six years ago, the county informed us that if we showed dedication and improvements they would provide lighting, which will allow at minimum, seven more night games each week. The second positive is artificial turf being installed at Joe Cannon Stadium which will allow 4-5 games to be played each Sunday as we utilize this location.
Do you still play in the league? I still play in the 45+ with the Chesapeake White Sox and Jeff Wolf keeps me on the Chesapeake Braves roster but they have plenty of players better than me!
What is the history of your league team’s participation in any MSBL national tournaments? Our league sent many teams to Arizona (MSBL World Series) and I have included a picture from 1992. The Chesapeake Braves won the Fall Classic in 1998 and the Chesapeake Dodgers won in 2005. The Chesapeake A’s have been to the Fall Classic for over 20 years. I would love to see our 22+ division form a team to compete in Arizona or Florida. We have the talent to do well.
What would you say are the most important accomplishments in your league? Our most important accomplishment is our commitment to giving back to our local community.
How valuable is your relationship with MSBL? Our relationship is invaluable. MSBL provides a structured organization to allow adults of any age to still play competitive baseball. There is no other organization that provides several age groups as well as many levels of competition so any team can play. The insurance and league benefits are also the best around. One benefit we recently installed the MSBL Smart Waiver process and it saves our players/managers countless hours.
What advice would you give to new league presidents? Running a league is hard but works if you develop a good team around you. Without our BOD and accountant we would not be successful as they do a lot of work such as scheduling, documentation, financial transparency, and budget. We also have a league field supervisor who develops plans with High school coaches so our teams know what specific processes are required prior to and after games. We also have 1-2 teams who oversea maintenance and upkeep of our fields while working with High School coaches coordinated with our league field supervisor.
How important is family support? Family support is very important. We all have many responsibilities and support from family allows us to play the game we all love with teammates.