2022 Nationals Down Marlins for Winter/Spring 50+ National Division Title in Sacramento

Sacramento MSBL, Winter/Spring 50+ National Division

Nationals 9, Marlins 6

Submitted by Jake Miller

The Spring 2022 season in Sacramento started in an ominous fashion for us.

Our coach Danny Ferrero has a medical condition that requires him to get treatment and is not allowed to play. Then, arguably our best hitter Kevin Fautt, was out with an injury. Big Sean Erickson was also out with an injury.  You get the picture.

Manager Dave Maldonado worked his magic and we hit the field. We started poorly, at 3-5! We had just picked up another big pitcher, Kevin Barnes the Wizard, and first baseman Terry Carey. We already had two horses in Dean Mann and Javier Maldonado.

At this point, we weren’t hitting or catching the ball. Then, when we knew we needed to win, we started to. We caught the ball, went first to third on the base paths, and made the other team pay for an error or lead-off walk. Not only did we need to win every game, but we also needed every run…literally. The competition in our league was really close and a hell of a lot of fun. On any given night a 3-5 team can smoke a 7-1 team and their ace! Plus, we have a few guys who can play a little ball!  Let me introduce you to the Sacramento Nationals.

Ken Miller is our big lefty bat and all-around stud. He’s the guy you want up with the game in the line. Our #4 hitter, Randy Banner, all 6’5” of him mashes the ball. I call him ‘DJ Randy’ because he’s always bringing the hits!

Antonio Vega is arguably our league’s best catcher but he’s probably a better center fielder. He sets the tone for the team and is our best defensive player. Firefighter Todd Pennington plays short, catches, bats second, and wreaks havoc on the bases. Terry Carey and Joe Garcia man first. Joe saved our behinds in the championship game with a diving snag no man over 50 should attempt,

much less make!

Get the ball to first, even on the ground, and it’s going to be an out. Dan Petersen and Shawn Ponce play middle infield among other things and are real gamers! The Nationals play hurt, play out of position, but always play for each other.

I’m Jake Miller and play third and lead off. Gary Gunkel comes to play with us from the 209-area code and is a really solid player.

I want to brag a little about one of my teammates, Ricky Mejia. With that sweet lefty swing, he plays right field, batted sixth in our first playoff game, and drove in run number three in the first inning with a sweet single. Ricky is 69! Guys always say they want to be like Ricky when they’re 69. Hell, I want to be like him now. Ricky was informed in front of the team by league representatives before our first playoff game that he was being inducted into the Sacramento Baseball Hall of Fame! He’s a great player, a great teammate, and an even better dude!  Well-deserved congratulations to Ricky Mejia! He is what the Nationals are about.

Now to the playoffs.  In our first playoff game versus a good Royals team, we jumped out to a 5-0 second-inning lead and cruised to a 10-5 win. They dropped three runs in the seventh but at least I felt we had the game in hand early. Seven different players scored. Our top five hitters did a lot of damage, but batters 9-11 scored four runs, had an RBI, and stole a base. Everyone contributed.

In our second playoff game, we faced our pals the Marlins. Four of us just went to Vegas for the MSBL Las Vegas Open on Memorial Day with this team, so bragging rights were on the line. We were down 4-1 going into the top of the fourth versus Sean Keven. Sean has been terrorizing Sacramento hitters forever. He’s good when he’s bad and great when he’s on. We batted nine that day. The top of our lineup started the fourth with two HBPs, two walks, and four legit hits, as we dropped seven on them right out of the chute, and won 9-6.

Both playoff games were well played with few errors, along with a few great plays. Someone could watch us and I’d hope they’d say, ‘for over 50 those guys can still play a little!’ I’ll take that!

I want to shout out a big thanks to Alan Van Ness our league President and all the individuals who spend their energies making the SMSBL such a great league.  Now let’s go win the summer league! GO NATS!!!

It would be too long to get into right now, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t end by mentioning the Legend of Jimi James! Without him, we don’t make the playoffs. His exploits are legendary in our history!