By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

The Willamette Valley Men’s Baseball League is a Salem, Oregon based baseball league comprised of the Oregon Men’s Senior Baseball League and the Mid-Willamette Valley Men’s Adult Baseball League. The Oregon MSBL was founded in 1988 by Joe Johnson, originally as an 18-over league.

52-year old David Winstead is in his fifteenth year in the league and is technically the league treasurer, though many of his duties mirror those of a league president.

“Our president resigned last year and the board has yet to assign a new president so we all chip in to make it work,” explained Winstead.  “We have secretaries and board members and each age division has a manager so we stay on top of things.  I am the one who communicates with MSBL, schedules umpires, and arranges the fields.”

That’s a lot to do as the treasurer, especially considering they have four age divisions and 19 teams to care for to get ready for their June 22nd start.  But one division is special and has required some real mastery to pull off and has benefited so many people in the area.

“Our community cancelled the high school summer season and the kids had nowhere to play.  One of our long-time league players is a high school coach, and MSBL World Series veteran, and asked if there was anything we could do to give the kids somewhere to play.  I contacted Steve Sigler and with some special insurance issues ironed out we invented a 16-over division, comprised of six teams.”

So how did the kids respond to the good news?

“We had 105 players sign up right away.  Five of our teams are very competitive and include American Legion kids and kids also hoping to play college ball.  We didn’t want to turn anyone away so our sixth team is actually made up of enough kids to play for two teams and they play each other during the week in a more relaxed environment.  All of the teams get in three games per week so everyone is happy.”

The league also includes three teams in an 18+ division, four in a 30+ division and six in the 40-over.  What are some of the league-wide regulations regarding dealing with the virus?

“The one mandate by the state is no more than 100 total people at any game.  That’s not a problem with our regular divisions but sometimes you’ll attract a lot of fans and relatives for the American Legion type of baseball.  We developed a rule that every player can bring one spectator.  We hired a couple of kids to check everyone in at the stadium to make sure the numbers are OK and also check off on a health questionnaire. 

Fortunately, the facility is privately owned so we can have games there all week.  We can actually hold two games every day and four on weekends.  We are very fortunate.  One of the byproducts of being able to do this is that they will remember us when they get a little older.  Hopefully they’ll consider playing in our league.  It’s a good recruiting tool.”

What other special rules were implemented for the entire league?

“Everyone keeps a mask in their pocket so when they get closer, they put it on.  All coaches and board members and umpires wear masks to set a good example, but it’s up to the umpire association to do what they wish with their umpires.”

David is also quite active on the diamond as a league member in the 40-over division, playing for the undefeated, Hops.  He can also be found at the MSBL Las Vegas Kickoff Classic in March or the World Series in Arizona in October.

“We’ve been in the Vegas Kickoff Classic championship game for three out of four years and have gone to the Arizona World Series the past eight years for Father and Son play and in the 45’s with the Hops.  We went down last year in the 45+ cactus and in previous years just networked from here.  I have also played on Puget Sound and Sacramento teams at the World Series.”

As a new guy in charge, what were some of your biggest challenges to keep the ship afloat during this very chaotic season?

“One of the biggest challenges was finding facilities with lights.  We are limited to four to six fields we can use because so many fields were shut down.  Board member Andrew Koll and I have been working hard to work with high schools to make it work for everyone so in the future it should run smoothly.  The communication has always been clear so that really helps. 

I was disappointed a few years back with our level of play and how our conduct was so this year we implemented new fine and suspension system so it has really helped our quality of play and created less bickering, which has also attracted better quality umpires because it is a lot more professional and smoother.  We also now insist that excess money goes back into the fields for supplies and upkeep, thus cementing our relationship with them.”

Any final thoughts?

“Our biggest virus challenge was in knowing that change is hard and our quality of life has also changed, so understanding how everybody is feeling and how it has affected us and what we can do as individuals and league members was important to convey.  We have been successful in providing a platform that shows that it works when we call come together.

It is very satisfying to put in the time and effort and see their results come together on the field.  You hear the crack of the bat and see the passion evolve on the field, while seeing the smiles.  Our 16+ division coming together from an idea to actually playing is very comforting.  I hope these young men will consider playing in our league soon so that as our other divisions naturally move up in divisions, we can keep the younger players coming in to keep us going for years to come.”