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Reverchon Redux! North Texas Amateur Baseball League Turns Groundskeepers

Submitted by Mark Shonka, copywriter and NTABL member

March 3, 2019Imagine waking up early on a Saturday morning after a night of imbibing a gallon or so of Lone Star, eating well-beyond a recommended serving of belly-ache inducing snack(s), and going to bed only a handful of hours before the sound of your alarm clock surged into your eardrum and made it feel like a Mötley Crüe concert were playing inside your head. Now, tack on the fact that the reason you were waking up early was to head out into the dreary, drizzling, 40ish degree weather to perform physical labor for multiple hours in a park known for aggressive homeless folk encounters, public fornicators, and hastily jogging yuppies.

A sane person might say this sounds terrible and ask “Why would anyone do that?”  This isn’t just any park though – it’s a park sporting an aging baseball field. Why would we do this? Well, we’re baseball players, and our unadulterated love for the game leaves our sanity in question every now and then! Sanity issues aside, this was a fantastic opportunity for the gentlemen of the North Texas Amateur Baseball League to both give back to the community and spruce up one of the beloved fields on which our teams play. The name of this field is Reverchon Park – a baseball diamond that has seen 100 birthdays and hosted countless levels of play from high school to pro barnstorming games.

Though we love the park, the field itself most certainly needed a lot of work. The base paths down the 1st and 3rd base lines were so crooked, you practically had to ballet dance your ass down them in order to avoid running out of the baseline. Excess dirt was surrounding the infield grass, causing uneven surfaces and lots of bad hops during games. The ground itself was so hard that you could practically skate across it with your metal spikes – or sprain your ankle so badly that you had to wear a boot for 6 weeks (believe me, I’d know). The bullpens were essentially foxholes better suited to fend off an enemy infantry attack than to warm up a pitcher. The paint in the dugouts was chipping away, revealing a color that could only be described as “depression.” And if the clouds so much as spit on the dirt with rain, it would flood the field and turn it into a glorified swimming hole. So, yes, this field had a few issues.

But that didn’t hinder our determination! Armed with piles of dirt, pallets of sod, 50 lbs. bags of red topdressing, hand tools, and good old-fashioned elbow grease, our mission was to whip the infield, dugouts, and bullpens back into fighting shape. And we did just that.

We didn’t waste any time getting down to business. The event leaders laid out the plan for the day and then we grabbed our tools and hit the field. I must say, for a group of folks who have fairly limited field maintenance experience, we looked like a well-oiled machine. In less than four hours, we had the infield covered with a new dirt surface, cut straight lines in the base paths, laid down fresh sod, painted the dugouts, and made the bullpens operable again. Last but not least, we uprooted the old rotting AstroTurf in the batting cage and avoided getting stuck with rusty nails or used needles while doing so!

Some of the big highlights included the following:

Kirk Pruitt leading us in a pre-work ZUMBA class, Chris Cec giving us a lesson in geometry, DJ Shawn Lee bumping some Def Leppard and keeping this blog post author’s morale sky high, Patty Evans showing off his mad sod laying skills, Chris Corbeille lifting six 50 lbs. bags of dirt with one arm and many more thrilling ballpark maintenance plays!

I was proud of the way our league came together. Despite the crappy weather conditions, I didn’t hear a single person complain. We are too in love with this game not to enjoy the simple act of being on a baseball field, much less putting our stamp on it by helping with its renovation. Hell, we plain flat out had fun too. Guys from the Spirits, Bulls, Hurricanes, Brewers, Modoc, Pelicans, and my team, The Old Fashioneds (sorry if I left anyone out) were all joking around with each other, getting some exercise, meeting new league mates and other volunteers, and drinking all the free RC Cola our bladders could hold. Not only were we having fun, but you could feel the excitement emanating from all the players that this signified the beginning of the 2019 season. I believe each one of us will walk on this renovated field standing a little taller this spring, knowing we helped become a small part of its amazing history. If you ask me, I’d say we (run) ruled the event.

Lastly, it would be downright irresponsible of me if I didn’t give a well-deserved shout out to the super-hero caliber leadership of Gerry Mecca and Kirk Pruitt. Not only did they make this ballpark cleanup opportunity possible, but they make our entire league possible. You guys are the heart and soul of the NTABL, and we’d be lost without you. Thanks for leading the way, Skip(s)!

Here is a link to the YouTube video from that special day: https://youtu.be/-Cm8Prik278

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MSBL Player Spotlight: Steve McNeely, Sacramento Men’s Senior Baseball League

Submitted by Scott Brown, Sacramento Seals

Steve McNeely will be 67 years ‘young’ in September and plays on our Seals in the Sacramento MSBL 50+ Sunday team, our Spring team and the Seals Summer team.  On March 18th he was on the bump versus the 3-0 Nationals and threw four solid innings, getting the win in the process.

On our Sunday 50+ team he is currently batting .727 with two doubles.  He is practicing three days per week at the Walbeck Baseball Academy, run by Matt Walbeck who is a former big leaguer who played 11 seasons with the Cubs, Twins, Angels and Tigers, and is also currently playing in the SMSBL.  Steve has been fine tuning his swing and it shows.

Steve took the hill last week and threw five innings while allowing only a single run.  He also went 3 for 3 at the plate and has posted an amazing 15 hits in his last 15 at bats!  Not bad for an avid biker guy who used to race.  Anything he tackles he is bound to succeed at.

Steve is an all-around good team mate and great guy.  We are lucky to have him on our team and it goes to show that no matter your age, hard work pays off.

(Editor’s note: If you have someone to spotlight, or let us know about yourself, please send the information along to me at msbllamontia@aol.com)

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An Essay on the Passing of Stan Gotinsky, Detroit MSBL

By Larry Paladino, Teammate and Friend

(Reprinted from October 2018 after Stan Gotinsky died tragically of a heart attack) With fear and hate seeming to multiply around the world faster than understanding and love can counter them, people like Stanley Carmen Gotinsky have a way of just plowing forward, head down, by doing what is appropriate for the moment and thus accomplishing all goals that might otherwise seem too formidable.

With a humor grounded in candor, Stan Gotinsky was able to conquer challenges lesser souls might simply ignore, or skirt. He, though, seemed to have no qualms when tackling his job at Chrysler Corporation (now FCA) or activities outside his occupation, especially baseball. That’s baseball, not softball. Who plays hardball at 71? Stan did, and managed his 55+ and 65+ Zug Island Lugnuts teams in the Detroit MSBL to boot.

Stan knew what it takes to win. The Lugnuts rarely won. But he had an inherent ability to suffer from within in order to keep his team of not-so-adept ballplayers functioning competitively in the game they love. Many of their skills left them a generation ago, but their manager had a way of understanding that reality and holding everyone together against odds that pitted them against teams with a win-at-all-costs approach.

Playing senior baseball for two decades shows grit in itself. But doing so at the same time as raising a family and holding down a stress-filled job on the back end of a half-century of corporate ups and downs speaks to the man’s character. And as for that, just ask those who worked with him, and those who competed on his teams, what a down-to-earth and yet up-to-all-tasks leader he was.

When he died suddenly of a heart attack on October 25, 2018, at his home in Troy, Michigan it not only came as a gut-wrenching shock to his wife, Christine, and daughters Samantha and Hannah, but drew reactions of incredulity from his teammates and co-workers. And even from his dogs if they could express themselves.

No, it didn’t happen. It couldn’t happen to Stan. He was young by his players’ perspective and still not ready to retire from his job as an internet technology manager. He needed to find a catcher for his 2019 65+ team and get his first-baseman’s mitt broken in a bit more. He also wanted to perhaps work some of those kinks out that slowed his running down some. He was able to get help collecting fees on the 55+ team, now maybe he could get someone to do that for the 65’s for the next season and he could concentrate more on batting orders and defensive lineups.

Metropolitan Detroit grew into the motor capital of the world with guys like Stan, who migrated from West Virginia. He was born there July 16, 1947, in Douglas to the late Stanley and Comalee Gotinsky. He always enjoyed keeping in touch with family and going back for reunions. He loved to spend time with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, siblings and friends. Great-grandchildren? Who’d believe it while watching him play baseball, or racquetball, or golf? He took them on ski trips and created wonderful memories of all of them together.

His widow, Christine, was married to him for 25 years. She, Samantha, and adopted daughter Hannah were regulars at his games. Stan’s teammates probably had no idea of the depth of his life before the Lugnuts, as can be surmised from those others who survive him. He was the loving father, also, of Tammy Bensinger (Mike), Wendy Machuta (Dan), Trisha Felsner (Mike) and Brad Gotinsky. His grandchildren are Brittney Machuta, Shelby Bensinger, Zach Bensinger, Sydney Machuta, Lexie Felsner, Allie Felsner and Drake Felsner. His grandchildren are Jaxon and Lilly Jeroue. He also is survived by his brother Frank (Lena), plus sisters Brenda Gotinsky and Sandy Weakland (Jim), plus many nieces, nephews, cousins, and numerous loved ones.

‘To an Athlete Dying Young’

Today the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.

                            –A.E. Housman

In his famous poem, Housman, according to “Masterpieces of the World,” “advances the idea that it is far better to die in one’s prime, while one can be remembered for his or her youthful accomplishments, than to become infirm, forgotten, ignored, or replaced in the memories and hearts of one’s townspeople.”

He wasn’t a 25-year-old athlete, but he was still an athlete and at 71 seemed still to be in his prime. And he’s not going to be forgotten. Take care, Stan. Take two pitches and hit to right.

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Power-Up Your Next Game with a Wholesome Smoothie

 

By Jennifer Davies, special to MSBL

 

Unlike other sports where playing time is quick and finite, baseball players must strategically prepare diets to keep them sustained for an unknown length of time. Nutritionists recommend eating or drinking a meal rich in complex carbohydrates an hour or two before a baseball game to provide a consistent boost of energy throughout the unknown amount of innings. Certain fruits and vegetables are key and, more than ever, players are mixing these foods into smoothies for quicker absorption of the nutrients and smoother digestion throughout the game, which is especially important for amateur ballers as they age.

 

Smooth Operator

Los Angeles Angels superstar center fielder, Mike Trout, is regarded as the best player in baseball and a healthy example of how to enhance production. To make sure he stays in shape, he’s added more vegetables to his diet. “I always was meat, meat, meat,” he says. “Now I’m more balanced, eating (much more) vegetables.”

 

Drinking those vegetables in smoothie form is the quickest way to get the daily requirements. Experts say consuming a minimum of five servings of fruits or vegetables per day is recommended to provide the vitamins an athlete requires to sharpen agility and the motor skills needed to achieve peak performance on the diamond. However, with so much of a ballplayer’s time devoted to practice, a smoothie is clutch by packing several servings of fruits and veggies into one highly-concentrated drink.

 

Soothe the Swelling

Inflammation and swelling of the muscles and joints of baseball players is a chronic issue that only worsens with age. Smoothies blended with inflammation-reducing ingredients, such as Greek yogurt, fresh ginger and peanut butter, are key to keeping the joints lubricated and healthy. Anti-inflammatory eating will also benefit other areas of the body, such as one’s mental health, which is useful when preparing for a big game.

 

When considering other ingredients for a well-balanced smoothie, players mix produce like broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots and berries in a blender with a cup or two of water. Frozen fruit such as blueberries, pineapple or mango chunks also help keep a ballplayer immune to germs naturally found in locker rooms or dugouts. Keep experimenting with more or less of certain ingredients to achieve your favorite flavor profile.

 

In addition, include a scoop of whey protein powder that provides essential amino acids for muscle recovery throughout the length of the game. Baseball is a physically and mentally demanding sport that requires proper nutrition to keep the body healthy and prevent injuries. A refreshing smoothie strengthens and revives tired muscles and joints to help make you the Mike Trout of your league.

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Important Player Pool Page Update

 

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

Greetings potential MSBL national tournament team managers!  I am responsible for entering our Player Pool entrants on to the Player Pool page of the national website and I wanted to make a comment for your benefit regarding a trend I am seeing in 2019 thus far.

First of all, the Player Pool page remains one of the most visited and successful ports we have on the website.  Many, many players get picked up and it has proven to work very well.  The point I wanted to make is that so many players are entering their names this year with ‘ANY’ as their preference of tournaments to participate in.  If you are looking to fill your World Series roster, for example, you will see World Series entrants listed at the top, as that is where I always enter new names for that tournament, but I wanted to make you aware that under the Fall Classic entrants, which follows the World Series, you will find a ton of players who have stated they are willing to play in ‘ANY’ tournaments.

My point is, please don’t stop looking after the World Series listings while thinking that is all there is because you will find many more names listed with ‘ANY’ if you scroll further down.  These players will also have an interest in the World Series, along with our other tournaments.

Our goal is to pair up players with teams so I am encouraging everyone to look through the entire list.  We would hate for a player to be left out of a national tournament experience because a manager overlooked that section.

We may think of a different way to promote these players to make them easier to locate but for now please be aware that there is plenty of gold if you dig a little deeper!  Any suggestions on the best way to keep these players front and center are also welcome.

Take care, play safe and we’ll see you somewhere in the dirt!

Steve LaMontia

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Revisiting the Venues: Largest Stadiums in Major League Baseball

By Jennifer Davies, Special to MSBL

With baseball season imminent, thousands of fans and their major league teams will soon descend on stadiums across America to celebrate the sport. Major League Baseball (MLB) has become a national pastime in America; generating $10.3 billion in revenue for 2018. Judging by these figures, it is clear that baseball continues to hold a place in hearts, and traditions of Americans across the country. With people eager to immerse themselves in the sport, you will regularly find fans continuously seeking knowledge of every part of the sport – from its rich competitive history to the background of the players’ bats and tools.

One of those commonly asked questions relates to not the players, but the baseball venues. Take a look at some of the largest stadiums that baseball fans can expect to play host to the season’s upcoming games across America.

Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles: Initially opened in 1952, it is the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and it comfortably claims the spot for the baseball venue with the most seating capacity. Although the current capacity stands at 56,000 people,  the stadium has been designed to hold a crowd of up to 85,000. On the news front, it was recently announced that the stadium will play the host pitch to the 90th MLB All Star Game in July 2020. This will make the first time in 40 years it will host the game and it is already generating a lot of buzz. The game will see both the American Team and National Team battle it out for the honor of this mid-summer classic. While Dodger Stadium holds the title for the largest seating capacity, it comes in on the smaller side in terms of the distance to center field, with 395 feet between the two points.

Yankee Stadium, New York City: Coming in second for seating capacity, Yankee Stadium is notorious for its short porch and favored amongst left-handed hitters. The stadium is one of the more recent ones (opened in 2009) and is able to seat up to 47, 309 people. The Yankee Stadium has often been adjudged a hitter’s paradise and boasts the following dimensions: 314 feet down the right field, 408 feet down the center field and 318 to the left field. These dimensions put it right up there on the list of not only the largest stadiums according to seating capacity but also among the top hitters for the deepest outfield.

Coors Field, Colorado: It would be remiss if the Coors Field was not mentioned in the list of notable baseball venues. The stadium plays home to the Rockies and in 2018, the publication Denver Post ranked the location as the 14th best stadium experience for baseball fans. In 2017, the field drew around 2.59 million Rockies fans, bringing it to the seventh position within the major league. There have also been some upgrades to the venue recently. The Coors installed a new scoreboard that is more than 258 percent larger than the initial one. In addition, officials have also taken precautions to protect the fans by upgrading the netting behind the home plate and renovating the Club Level Bar. Opened in 1995, Coors Field boasts a seating capacity of 46,897, which provides ample seating for the throngs of fans. It is also the top of the charts for the home run factor for the 2019 season so far, according to park rankings released by ESPN.

Comerica Park, Detroit: Comerica Park is located in Downtown Detroit and can seat up to 41,083 people. It also has the largest distance to center field (coming in at 420 feet) and is currently the home to the Detroit Tigers. While the stadium is not the largest by seating capacity, the seating arrangements and field view afforded continues to be a premium one and offers a perfect view to every fan. It also has a unique stripe that runs from the pitcher’s mound to the home plate. After criticisms to the initial dimensions of the outfield and its effect on home runs, the left-center field wall was amended to 375 feet; where it currently stands today.

Each of these stadiums makes the pick for one reason or the other. Whether it is its ability to hold as many fans as possible or the one with the deepest outfield; they each add their own unique value to the baseball experience. Whatever your preference, everyone can agree: they are some of the most well-known stomping grounds for America’s second most beloved sport.

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Charlie Best: MSBL’s Oldest and Newest Fan

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

Editor’s note: This story isn’t about a 95 year-old MSBL ball player but actually a snippet explaining his journey into our backyard.  Charlie Best is a baseball fan in Michigan and has played the game at a pretty high level himself.  He knows the game.  But the bigger story is how someone who is most definitely older than most of us retaining his passion for baseball, life and family while seeking out a thing as simple as a good sandlot game to watch.  That’s where our paths crossed.  Charlie is a wonderful man and I hope he enjoys his journey into our MSBL backyard near Detroit for a little horsehide entertainment and a trip back into baseball being played for the fun of it.  We’ll be sure to put on a good show for you, Charlie!

Charlie Best is nearly 95 years old, lives near Flint, Michigan, and is a huge baseball fan who understandably loves the Tigers.  Charlie was also quite a ball player until World War II entered the picture.  Thanks to his grandson Ethan, Charlie has recently become interested in the Men’s Senior Baseball League.  Well, let me explain.

Charlie is fortunate enough to have a grandson who will do anything in the world for him because Ethan was primarily raised by his grandfather and he wants to give back.  Ethan Best is part of our country’s northern border security team in Michigan and recently ran across a person who was crossing from Windsor, Canada who happened to be an MSBL member and they started chatting about baseball.

“My grandfather occasionally experiences that ‘what if’ sensation when he thinks back on his own possible baseball career while he and I are watching the Tigers play,” explained Ethan.  “He was an exceptional ballplayer in his teens making it to the American Legion national championship series in 1941 as a second baseman, and maybe could have gone somewhere in the game but life and war took over.  When the gentleman from Windsor mentioned an adult baseball league he played in I immediately thought of my grandfather and envisioned taking him to watch some baseball on a more personal level.”

Ethan contacted MSBL to find out about leagues near Charlie’s home in Mount Morris, Michigan, just a little north of Flint.  We were happy to supply him with details on our Detroit MSBL and St. Clair Shores MABL, located a little north of Detroit.  His grandfather wanted to watch some baseball in a more up-close environment and we were happy to show him the way.  Charlie is also a proud member of the Flint, Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame for his amazing American Legion run and his participation in the Flint City Classic League upon his return from the war.

“After the service I played in the Flint City Classic League until 1959,” said the elder Best.  “I was 35 when I quit the league.  The Phillies asked me to try out but I decided to get married.”  Charlie went into the service in 1943 and got out in November of 1945.  He then started playing in the Flint city league in the spring of 1946.  “No, I don’t think I could have made it in the big leagues.  I was only 150 pounds, though a good fielder and a decent hitter but never at the major league level.  Once in a while I think I would have liked to have given it a try but I feel I made the right decision. But I still think about it once in a while.”

Charlie was a scrappy second baseman while his 1941 American Legion Post #342 team is still the stuff of legends in Flint, which is where he began his journey that eventually led him to the Flint Baseball Hall of Fame.  “We came up one run short of the national championship in 1941,” said Charlie.

Charlie had a hip replacement recently but the doctors somehow hurt the good hip during the replacement, but he lives with it and is not eager to go back under the knife.  He is still able to bowl twice weekly and plays golf regularly.  “He is constantly mistaken for someone much younger,” stated Ethan.  “I love taking him to Tigers games and now hopefully some MSBL games this year.  He loves baseball.  I took him to a Tigers game on his 93rd birthday and they got a picture of us in the stands and broadcast it on TV.  It was great.”

Charlie has hit that time of life when his compadres from previous years have passed on.  He has found many new adventures with his grandson, whom he helped raise.  It is now time for Ethan to take the reins and make sure his role-model grandfather is happy and well cared for, though they live apart.  Part of being the caregiver involves sharing the great game of baseball. “Heck, I’m too young to live in a senior home,” said Charlie.  “I lost my last two best friends in 2017.  We shared a lot of wonderful memories. I’m glad I have Ethan to make some new memories.”

Ethan says that when the topic of baseball comes up his grandfather becomes instantly animated.  We all know the power of the passion and whether you are playing or watching, baseball is in your blood and transcends the ages.  When I spoke with Charlie his enthusiasm jumped through the phone.  Enjoy your MSBL games, Charlie, and please let us know how you’re getting along.  It is our pleasure to entertain you with new experiences to share with Ethan and hopefully rekindle a memory or two of when you prowled second base yourself.  As we like to say in the Men’s Senior Baseball League, ‘We’ll see you in the dirt.’

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Marucci April 2019 Monthly Bat Special Exclusively for MSBL Players

 

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

Here is the Marucci April 2019 special bat of the month.  Part of that agreement is to provide special pricing monthly and promotions exclusively for MSBL players.  Just click on the image above, which will take you to the Marucci website.  To check out the special member only Marucci deals for April just click here and then type in the special MSBL code MSBLMABL.

This is a special opportunity to obtain arguably the most utilized bat in all of the major leagues.  Let us know what you think!

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Do You Have a Story to Tell?  We Want to Hear It

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

Baseball is upon us all, one way or the other.  Some warm weather leagues are underway while others are working out as a Memorial Day opening day looms.  Stories are being created, pictures and videos are being taken and the Men’s Senior Baseball League wants to share your experience.

Yes, this is a tried and true plea that I continually place in front of you but the thing to consider is that the MSBL is a fraternity of men and women who share in a passion for our great game and a desire to know what their family is up to.

I post many different topics on the Website, Facebook, Twitter and in our newsletters.  I have found that the types of stories that resonate more than any others are about our members, their teams and their leagues.  If you have an interesting story to tell on a personal or ‘on the field’ level please shoot me an email at msbllamontia@aol.com.  I’ll get back to you right away and we’ll see what we can accomplish together to share your story or pictures.

Good luck this year and we hope to see you in the dirt somewhere.  Thank you all for making the MSBL the number one adult baseball organization in the country.  Without you there would be no us.  Take care and play safe!