Alan Loper: Still Pounding the Strike Zone after 33 Years in Atlanta and on the National Tournament Stage
By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Many of you out there have some league or national tournament trophies or memorabilia stuffed in drawers or maybe proudly displayed on the bookshelf or mantle. Atlanta’s Alan Loper is a 63-year-old pitcher with 387 adult baseball victories to his credit. He amazingly didn’t pitch until he joined the Atlanta MSBL in 1990. Why is this of any particular interest? Check out the picture below of his man cave and the contents and you can see the culmination of his amazing journey:
“I played first base in high school and never pitched since we didn’t have pitching coaches back then so nobody noticed,” explained Loper. “I went to Georgia Southern for college but became the PA announcer. I never played a single inning. In retrospect, I think the lack of activity saved my arm. There was no stress on it so now over 30 years later I am still able to pitch with minimal problems.”
How did you go from a sandlot first baseman to a dominant MSBL pitcher?
“1990 changed my life. That was my ticket to the next 33 years. A new team in a new MSBL league (Atlanta MSBL) placed an ad in the newspaper looking for players so I gave it a try. I missed the game. I had been throwing batting practice for a local high school team and got to where my timing and location were pretty good so I asked if I could pitch for the new team. I found that I could throw a pretty effective sidearm fastball and induce a lot of ground ball outs. Steve Rosenberg was directing the tryout and they put all of us on the new team, the Red Sox. We did pretty well that first year. That was my first year actually pitching in any kind of league.
The MSBL is the thing, according to me. I won’t play in any other league. I have had other local opportunities throughout the years but MSBL gave me a chance and I am very loyal to them.”
Alan’s pitching prowess spreads far beyond the confines of the West Metro Atlanta MSBL (Alan’s current league). This much sought-after moundsman punches his ticket every year to Arizona for the World Series, Florida for the Fall Classic and other Florida tourneys, Huntsville for an annual Labor Day tournament, the Desert Classic in Palm Springs, and many Billy Townsend Memorial Day tournaments in his back yard of Atlanta.
“My first trip to the MSBL World Series was in my very first year in the league, 1990. We had a sort of pickup team and ended up in the championship game and lost 3-2 in ten innings. I was hooked. They say you never go just once and they were right! I currently possess four World Series rings and assorted other rings and trophies but I’ll never forget 1990.”
Alan’s all-start caliber teams throughout the years include the powerhouse Atlanta Bulls, Atlanta Flames, and this year’s edition of the DuPage Angels, just to name a few. There is no lack of thrills that all of those years provide.
“My biggest thrill, however, was making the cover of Hardball Magazine in the Spring of 2003. I have it framed.”
Alan is by no means just a pitcher. He plays first base with the best of them and also swings the bat. It can be frustrating, though, when you play with a new team and manager who sees you as just a pitcher.
“I can play first base, too, and sometimes struggle with new managers who just see me as a pitcher but I can play elsewhere. These things usually work themselves out during the course of a week-long tournament. I won’t throw a fit if I don’t play. I’m blessed to be able to still play into my 60s. One manager threw me a total of ten innings in six games and I didn’t play anywhere else. I guess we should have discussed it prior to the tournament but that’s OK. Any day on the ballfield is a good one. Be calm, be comfortable, and don’t complain.”
I asked Alan what he has done throughout his career to improve and enhance his longevity at such a strenuous position.
“I frankly surprised myself early on at how hard I could throw. I chalked it up to not having used the arm much during the formidable years. I caught on to pitching pretty rapidly. I’ve been coaching JV baseball and varsity softball for over 20 years so I always have the opportunity to stay sharp and work on things. I took pitching lessons a couple of years ago to improve things and I learned so much! My biggest takeaway was to always finish!”
Alan’s league teams have also tasted many successes, as you would expect.
“Our Bulls team finally won in 1998 in the 45s. That division is very competitive and every game is a good one. I then won championships with the Yankees in 2007, 2008, and 2009. But that 1998 championship is the one that really sticks out. I currently play on the Saturday morning Cardinals. I have been very blessed.”
Out of all of the years of competitive tournament baseball, does a certain game or event stick out?
“I have to go back to the 1990 championship game loss at the World Series. We had no expectations and actually played great but lost with a bunch of guys who didn’t know each other. I started on the mound in that game and threw six or seven innings. I threw a lot in the tourney. But just being out there at 31 years old, having never been to Phoenix, and playing on major league fields still sticks out. My memory isn’t of a game-winning hit or a shutout I threw, but the experience of playing on those fields and spending a week of solid baseball. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
What’s the funniest thing he has ever seen on a baseball field?
“I have to say it was just last year and it involved yours truly. I was batting and swung and missed and my cleat got entwined with the other shoelace and I hit the deck and couldn’t get up very well. Everyone was laughing, including me, and it was quite embarrassing. Then one of my teammates drew some murder-scene tape around the batter’s box!”
Any final thoughts to put the cherry on top of your 33-year MSBL journey?
“I give all the credit to Steve Sigler. He is a huge part of my success. Kudos to Steve for founding MSBL.
Regarding actual playing advice, I would like to convey what I tell my softball and baseball players. Baseball is a short time memory game. It’s a game of failures. Forget about when you pop up with the winning run on base. Forget about it. Baseball has a one-third success rate. You must have a short memory.
The bottom line is that we are doing our best to be on a baseball field, regardless of skill level. I have matured and mellowed over the years and realize that it is a gift to be able to play. There’s a big difference between being 33 years old and 63. I don’t take it quite as seriously. I still always give it my best effort but whatever happens, happens. I plan on taking it slow, not getting flustered, and maybe I can reach win number 400 before I’m done. Just being able to play is what is important.”