By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Don DeCordova has had a lifetime of baseball while playing his league ball in the Tri-Valley MSBL and the Redwood Empire Baseball League in California and has been a major player in the MSBL World Series arena, while bringing over 135 teams to the World Series over a 33-year span, most recently as manager and organizer of the Cal Vets. This year’s World Series will see nine Cal Vets teams represented in the 60+, 65+, 70+, 73+, and 75+ age divisions, thanks to Donny’s efforts.
Because of Donny’s hard work year in and year out at the MSBL World Series and his lifelong passion for the game, MSBL Founder and President Steve Sigler has honored him with the 2023 MSBL Lifetime Achievement Award.
“It’s not about the rings, it’s about everyone getting a chance to play,” stated this year’s recipient. “I find ways for them to play. If I have one message to share it is not to judge guys on their age. The older guys should also have a place to play. I use a ton of pool players to fill out my rosters. You can always make it work.
I was surprised to receive this award. I just have fun and coach baseball and am not looking for any awards. It’s hard to say what I think. It’s nice and I appreciate Steve thinking so highly of me. It is pretty special to be recognized for doing something all of your life.”
Don was also inducted into the MSBL World Series Hall of Fame in 2009 and was honored in becoming the MSBL Man of the Year in 2016. Don isn’t able to play anymore because of health issues but still loves going to Arizona, managing as much as he can, and seeing that everyone has a good time.
“When you sign up with one of my Cal Vets teams you will play all the time. It isn’t about winning at all costs. You may not win a ring but you will play a lot of baseball. My players are like family and they always want to come back.”
Don is blessed to be married to his biggest supporter.
“Shari and I have been married for 40 years and she is my biggest supporter and organizer. I would be lost without her help,” explained Donny. “I have so much to keep track of but she understands my passion. She is actually the one who saw the MSBL ad in the paper in 1990 and encouraged me to go try out. I don’t think she knew what she was getting herself into!”
What molded Donny’s passion not only for baseball but for being a ‘go to’ guy for so many players and friends both on and off the field?
“I was working at the local KFC in Texas right out of high school at the ripe old age of 18. I was sure enough of myself that I told my boss that I wanted to be a district manager. He was impressed by my attitude and advised me to go take the Dale Carnegie course to learn about people and about myself.
I learned that if you have a passion for something, don’t ever leave it. My passion then, as well as now, is baseball. It has been that way ever since. That course made a difference in how I approach things and I have tried to convey that attitude to anyone who wants to listen.”
Don’s Cal Vets 65-over team did break the ice in the championship ranks in 2019, 2021, and 2022. They were in the non-ring Desert division but he is just as proud because he feels somewhat responsible for there even being a Desert division.
“I conveyed to Steve Sigler that there needed to be a division for the recreational player, which is where our Cal Vets teams belong. We don’t need to be playing against the Athletics or the Tribe and being on the short side of a 25-1 score. That’s no fun for anyone.
People in the Desert or Zona divisions love the game just as much as the National division guys. They just need to be playing alongside one another. We may not have earned a ring, but we still enjoyed every minute.”
I asked Don why he decided to change the team’s name from the Tri-Valley Giants to the current Cal Vets in 2018.
“I am a military veteran and I wanted to assemble teams that were primarily veterans. We have grown in the number of teams we bring so it became impossible to populate them with only military veterans. But in their honor, I have ‘VETS’ in big letters across the front of the jerseys to make sure everyone who sees us remembers someone who is or was a veteran.”
“If a guy wants to play, I will give him a place to play. I love baseball and being recognized by Steve is very special. I’m just doing what I love. People have sent me presents after I picked them up from the Player Pool and helped them out. It feels good to be remembered.
I have probably managed more games than anyone in the World Series and am also probably the biggest loser in history. But you know what? I have loved every minute and wouldn’t trade a single moment of the journey.”
Don’s induction coincides with a recent website story we compiled on his Cal Vets team history. To find out even more about Don’s history and how his Cal Vets teams emerged, here is the link to review: https://msblnational.com/msbl-team-profile-cal-vets-managed-by-don-decordova/