By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
The Connecticut North MSBL is located in Connecticut, rightly enough, but not exactly in Northern Connecticut. They are actually located in central Connecticut, as are many things, and play in many different locations. Connecticut is only 5,500 square miles in its entirety so League President Greg Schienda is correct when he says, “Call us what you want. Connecticut North has a nice ring to it so we’ll stay with that.”
The league started on June 28th with 25+ and 35+ divisions of play and a total of an even dozen teams, six in each division.
“We usually field eight teams in each division but some teams sort of dissolved because of the virus but they’ll be back. Only losing two teams is a positive and they all wish they were playing. They are just understandably apprehensive. We actually had an additional team that wanted to play so 2021 should be better than ever.”
Greg is optimistic about actually ending on time, even with the shortened season. They plan on finishing their regular season, and a layer of playoffs, by the end of August with a little of cushion to go further in case of northeastern weather concerns.
“We have scheduled in some seven-inning double headers to accommodate the teams in case of weather wiping out a day here and there and to also be done early enough so that our teams can get ready for the MSBL World Series in Arizona in October. My first year in Arizona was, I think, 1991 and have only missed one year. It’s a big two or three-week baseball vacation for me. I love it. This year the league plans on sending teams in the 35+, 50+, 55+ and 60+ divisions and I’ll be playing and managing. We need to get in some serious workouts before October!”
Regarding the current pandemic, what is Connecticut North doing to keep everyone safe and playing baseball?
“Our response to the rules we implemented came from multi-tier recommendations. We listened to the governor, of course, and also reviewed MSBL recommendations, umpire association guidelines and common sense. If you’re sick, don’t come. Managers and umpires also can send someone home on the spot. We emphasize sanitizing during and after the game, we keep everything clean, we practice social distancing and we recommend masks but it is not mandatory. The state is basically allowing you to play baseball as it was meant to be played, as long as you use your head. Common sense is the order of the day.
Our dugouts are limited to two players, as that’s all that would fit at six feet apart, and we sanitize the baseballs and each team uses their own. The umpire never touches the balls, either. I brought my lawn chair and an umbrella to stay out of the sun behind the fence and it was perfect!”
Thee 67-year ‘young’ Greg plays in the league for the Rocky Hill Capitals in his 35-over division as a first baseman and occasional outfielder.
“My legs aren’t what they used to be so when I am playing in a 35-over division and giving up over 30 years, I am the poster boy for first basemen. But in Arizona, while playing in some of the older divisions, I can still hold my own in center field. I played all three weeks last year and logged 20 games with the Connecticut Navigators and the Arizona/Connecticut United team in the 60’s. It was a blast.”
The Connecticut North MSBL began in 1990, while Greg took over the reins a mere four years ago, as he says because he had recently retired and had the time to give to it. The league sent their first team to the World Series in 1991, a team on which Greg played.
“What I am proud of is that our MSBL World Series teams primarily come from our league with a few necessary fill-ins to get us to 17-19 total players. We aren’t a tournament team that possesses a drawer full of rings but we play for the love of the game. We are always competitive and will give you all you can handle!
What was the biggest challenge you faced as president in dealing with the coronavirus?
“It was frustrating waiting for the governor and the towns to establish their rules. I kept in touch with the managers as best I could but we expectedly lost a couple of teams, but they’ll be back. We didn’t have any real obstacles, just the waiting. You have no control, which can be very frustrating. You just sit and wait. We at least have 50% of our season to go forward with so everyone is happy to be playing. We have a five-person board so we are able to keep everyone informed.”
On a side note, Greg and his girlfriend, Shirley, both contracted the virus in April. Shirley’s father died of the virus shortly before that, complicated by pre-existing conditions. They both caught it from her father’s unfortunate circumstances and it laid them both out for quite a while.
“It knocked me out,” summarized Schienda. “It was three-weeks of hell. I never felt in danger of dying but it was like the severe flu for three straight weeks, with one of the weeks being quite severe. We are both fortunate we are in pretty fair shape. Now we can look forward to getting back in the dirt!”