By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
The Anderson MSBL, located 13 miles southeast of downtown Cincinnati in the Anderson Township, is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2022. 80 year ‘young’ John Gruenberg was the original league president in 2002 and remains in that position in this, their anniversary year. John has come a long way from wiping seats for tips at Briggs Stadium in Detroit ‘back in the day.’
“I’ll be 80 years old this summer and have continually enlisted people to help keep things humming,” said Gruenberg. “Mark Ober was there at the beginning and still checks on all of the fields on game day and makes sure they are all lined and in shape to play.
Marty Heckhard came along in 2004 and is unofficially my right-hand man. I run everything by him. The thing that makes the league so successful is that all of our managers are on the board and they primarily make the decisions for the league. I still preside and keep everyone in line while staying away from dictating policy. They pretty much run things as they see fit and that is fine with me.”
When John started things in 2002, he publicized tryouts that attracted 65 people. That resulted in an initial four-team league, which has grown to 12 teams going into 2022.
“We were a 40-over league back then and are a 35-over league now that allows each team to carry two players over 30, but they can’t pitch. I broke my ankle and have also had rotator cuff surgery about eight years ago so I figured it was time to hang them up. I’m glad I don’t have to compete against these youngsters anymore,” laughed John.
The league has also grown into the social media and website age so John has solicited a couple of guys to keep everything up to date and everyone informed.
“Billy McDonald is the one who puts all the pictures on the website and Facebook page. You could call him the league’s official photographer. Brian Biggs has the monumental task of administering the website and social media so that everyone is up to date. We have sure come a long way from 2002, though I still get up every Sunday morning and drive to the fields to check them out along with Mark.”
The league started on March 27th and is a Sunday-only league. They have two fields at the same location that makes everything work in one day, which helps create a family atmosphere and a fun environment.
“We had a group workout on March 20th and also invited any new players. We start early but we also take some time off mid-summer so that players can take vacations and get a break. Our regular season goes through September and we have our playoffs in October.”
The past couple of years have provided their well-documented challenges across the MSBL nation and the Anderson MSBL was no stranger to concerns.
“We started a little late in 2021 but we still got in the entire season. We are very satisfied with that,” explained John
With 20 years of baseball league leadership under his belt, is there anything extra-special that sticks out?
“When we celebrated our ten-year anniversary ten years ago, the league got me a poster with everyone’s signatures and well wishes on it. That was really special and remains a framed reminder of just how wonderful this experience has been.”
With John being the catalyst 20 years ago and remaining in that position today, the obvious question is what makes the league different today.
“The talent today is so much better than back in 2002. Back then our four-team league had only one catcher! Now all teams are complete. Now have tryouts and try hard to maintain parity.”
I asked John was his biggest concerns are and also what gives him the greatest satisfaction.
“Finding somebody who will take it over when I leave is a big concern. I have been backing out of the day-to-day operation for a while and only vote to break ties. I have it constructed now that the managers vote on everything. I am merely the organizer and let them run things but someone is still needed to oversee everything. I’m sure they can vote on a successor but it still concerns me.
Regarding what gives me the most satisfaction, seeing 140 or 150 players all playing the game they love, enjoying themselves, and partaking in the camaraderie. That’s why I care so much about providing a platform for them and their families who come to the park.”
What is the reason for the continued success of the league?
“I think it is because the players all get along, they enjoy mingling, and it’s a fun league to be in. We’ll have a big party this summer, take some pictures, and make it a big social event. My initial goal was to make it fun and it was 20 years ago and it remains fun now.”
What part of running the league do you enjoy most?
“My degree is in finance so that is the element I enjoy most. It makes me feel good knowing that it all works financially. I also enjoy the camaraderie. My advice to new presidents would be to surround yourself with board members and people you can trust and then carry on with what you are good at and let them do their jobs. They want to help. Don’t try to do it all. Rely on other people, allow them to do their work, and listen to them. It will only make your league better.”