By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Matt Scott is a rookie league president, in a sense, having taken over the league in 2019. His sophomore season of leadership has been anything but normal but he has risen to the occasion and baseball has resumed in the central suburbs of Chicago, as 20 teams are back in the saddle as of June 25th.
“We played a crossover game with the Chicago North MSBL in our 60-over division on June 25th and the rest of the league opened up on the 27th,” explained Scott. “We had some rain issues but got most of our games in on the 27th so we’re happy we’re up and running again.”
The Chicago Central MSBL consists of a total of 20 teams spread about in 30+, 43+, 53+ and 60+ divisions, playing many of their games on a private complex in Aurora, Illinois.
“40% of our games are played at Tiger Field in Aurora but we aren’t a park district where we always play on the same complex. We grab fields where we can and go from year to year as things change. We have to negotiate every year with many park districts as their circumstances change. We can be pretty nomadic!”
The league had a team fold from last year but then promptly added two to reach 20. The team that folded had nothing to do with the virus, as things look like they are continuing with business as usual both now and in the future. How has the virus affected the actual game procedures and what safety measures have been implemented?
“We have tried to stay close to the Chicago North MSBL guidelines, since we play some crossover games with Max’s league. We have no handshakes or high fives, we stay six feet apart, we use hand sanitizer everywhere, no more than six in the dugout, no sharing of equipment or water coolers and have implemented things that I’m sure most leagues are putting into place. We have tried to keep the baseball experience as normal as possible. There are actual plays at the bases and sliding and most things like before.
The players are usually wearing batting gloves anyway so there is built-in protection there and masks are recommended but not mandated. The same goes for the umpires, regarding masks. They can also stand behind the mound if they wish. We left it up to them and the players are very good at going along with them. Some umps were behind the mound and all went well. Maybe the strike zone was a little higher than usual but once you know what the zone is you adapt.”
The Chicago Central MSBL began in 1989 with five teams, though Matt has been playing ball in the area since 1992. The 53-year old league president joined the league in 2002 and continues to play and manage the Colt 45’s in the 53+ division. The second baseman and pitcher seems to be doing more managing than playing these days, though.
“The guys that come into the league don’t want to be sitting on the bench as a representation of their return to our great game after years of a layoff. If I do play, I usually bat last and play sparingly so that they get the experience. I’m fine with that. At least I’m still involved and get the satisfaction of watching them play.”
Matt is a data analyst for a shipping company and is very detail driven, which is exactly what the league demanded when he took over.
“Some of the first things I did was set a concrete date for tryouts to let them know we cared about them joining our league and then advertise on Facebook and social media. It made us more legitimate and created interest with the younger players looking for a place to continue playing baseball. We didn’t want to simply let attrition turn us eventually into a 70-over league playing a few games per year with no real direction. We do have one team, the Angels, who have been in the league since its inception, at least the core players. It’s great to see everyone coming back year after year.”
Matt hasn’t personally been to Arizona for the MSBL World Series or the Fall Classic in Florida but his league is certainly involved.
“We have many players who get to these tournaments. My work schedule hasn’t allowed me to get there but maybe some day I’ll make it. The Chicago area is always well represented at the national tournaments. We have many talented players around here.”
We asked Matt what gives him the greatest satisfaction from being the league president?
“When the season starts and the numbers turn into a game. When the names go from theoretical into an actual game. What I mean by that is that you have names on paper during the recruiting months and to see the names turn into players on a field enjoying themselves is my greatest pleasure. The fact that I had something to do with them recapturing their dreams. I love being involved in creating new teams with new players.”