By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
(Photos courtesy of Billy McDonald) The Anderson MSBL wasn’t named after a long-time MSBL player named Anderson but rather a community established a mere fifteen miles from Cincinnati in Ohio. The league’s MSBL roots stem back to 2002, started by founder and original president of the league, John Gruenberg. John is still the captain of the ship and has built the league consistently over the past 18 years.
“We had four teams when we began and currently host a dozen teams in a 35-over format,” said Gruenberg. “To make sure we can maintain our 12 teams and keep everyone playing we have adopted a new rule this year allowing two players per team that have turned 30. The only stipulation is that they can’t pitch. It has worked very well for us.”
The Anderson MSBL kicked off on May 31st and have their first week under their belts. We asked John how the current virus and the state regulations impacted his players, the game or his procedures.
“The board opened up questions to our membership about social distancing, masks, umpiring, waivers, etc. We made some recommendations but it was ultimately up to them. It’s their league and I gave up many years back in trying to be a dictator. Open communication in an environment like this is crucial.”
What game procedures came out of their comments?
“Everyone signs a waiver sheet stating they are fit to play without any current illness. Each team uses their own balls when they are on the field and the umpires stay behind the plate. Social distancing is their choice in the dugout, on the field or before or after the game. We encourage to constantly be aware of where you are so you see a mix of separation and some guys sitting closer. It’s a personal choice. I brought my own chair to sit on. There are also no high fives or handshakes.
Masks are recommended but not mandatory. I honestly didn’t see a mask anywhere on any of the players. It was pretty much straight up baseball with holding on the runner, straight stealing and all that comes with that. That’s what they wanted so that’s the direction we went.”
The bottom line that John wanted to emphasize is that these are grown men and they know how important these state and local guidelines are and to police themselves. I was told they did a good job of that and were simply aware of their surroundings at all times. John said also that if someone is ill, stay home. They don’t demand a certain number of players in the dugout to maintain social distancing while the participants continually scope out the scene and if it appears it may be crowded, they stay out.
“One thing I insist on from each manager every week is the exact names of every player who is at the game just in case someone comes down with the virus in the future so that we can comply with any authorities who need specific tracing data,” explained Gruenberg. “I developed a program on my computer where I can enter all of the player data every week so we would know right away who needs to be contacted.”
The Anderson MSBL operates in a two-session guideline. Their first session begins usually mid-March and runs through June. The league takes July off for a breather and vacations and then begins round two in August and runs through mid-October, followed by playoffs in November.
“Everyone loves the format and it has been successful for us but it keeps us from playing in the MSBL World Series in October or the Fall Classic in November. But we try to send a couple of teams to the Bob Wagner’s Wooden Bat Classic in Florida in January. It works for us.”
We asked John if he had any recommendations for other presidents or managers as they also struggle with the battle of keeping the players happy to be playing baseball while complying with state or local regulations during these critical times.
“Let your players decide what they are comfortable with and go with the recommendations within reason and don’t send a message that everything is mandatory. These men know how to govern themselves. Let them. Make them feel comfortable and take ownership of their actions. It also avoids needless squabbles. They are the ones who said they didn’t want masks mandatory so we went with their feelings. Listen to your people and let them have a voice. They’ll stick with you for that reason.”