By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
(Pictures courtesy of C J ‘Heater’ Heatley III) The DCMSBL, located in our nation’s capital, had its heart broken when on the 2020 opening night, June 16th, it rained. Bummer. But the clouds went away and on Friday the 19th baseball was being played once again.
This year’s crop of DCMSBL teams include a total of 39 playing in 18+, 30+, 40+, 50+ and 60+ divisions. The 18-over MABL division started back in 1993.
“We usually have around 55 teams but this year’s incredible pandemic circumstances have affected our numbers,” explained long-time League President Larry Lombardi. “But they’ll be back. Our numbers will be back up in 2021.”
Lombardi started the league in the spring of 1989 and has been at the helm for now over 30 years.
“I saw the Sports Illustrated article in 1988 that featured Steve Sigler starting his new concept of adult baseball and I knew immediately that we needed to get going with it. I put an ad in the Washington Post advertising a meeting in the fall of 1988 and 70 people showed up! We created an original eight team, 30-over league that started the next spring. Our numbers have gone up and down over the years. We had 95 teams at one time and then the 2008 economic collapse really hurt us but we’ve leveled out at around 55 or so teams.”
There is one aspect of the tremendous success of the DCMSBL that is of great pride to Larry.
“We have never combined with other leagues or organizations to grow our league or our numbers. We have been home grown since 1989 and thrive because of the dedication of our players, past and present. I guess we must have been doing something right throughout the years.”
What special considerations have been made this year to accommodate area or state mandated coronavirus procedures?
“Sports activities aren’t allowed in the immediate DC area so we play our games in Fairfax County, Virginia,” stated Lombardi. “It is tough to schedule but we’ll get everybody playing baseball in the days ahead. As with many leagues, social distancing is recommended but not mandated. A player can wear a mask if they wish. Some players asked to play the first game and see how they liked what they saw and they have all stuck around. Everyone was emailed a waiver form and an explanation of recommendations so there weren’t any surprises.
We have a maximum of four guys in the dugout; the pitcher, catcher, manager and on deck batter. Everyone else is lined up along the fence. Our umpire association was also consulted every step along the way and we decided that it is up to them where they stand in regards to home plate. Some are close, some stay back a few feet behind the catcher and masks are up to them.”
Running a league this size must be too much for one guy to orchestrate, especially while continuing to work full time.
“I had help with the books, as good friend Roger Stanley was also a CPA. He handled all of the back-office stuff and in 1996 Roger recommended we create an LLC since a lot of money was coming and going and we needed to be protected. Roger recently passed away but I continue to have help with the business aspect of the league. Yes, it takes a lot of time but we do it for love of the game.”
We asked Larry if he intends on returning to the field any time soon.
“I haven’t been able to play for about five years because of my full-time job and running the league. But I will hopefully retire from my job in a couple of years and can back on the field. We’ll have to develop a 70-over division so that I can play again!”
The DCMSBL has been a large contributor of teams and players to the MSBL World Series and Fall Classic throughout the years.
“Our summer season usually winds up in August and then we kick off a fall league right around Labor Day that includes 20 to 25 teams in a more relaxed environment. It concludes in early October so that players can get to the MSBL national tournaments. We are hopeful that this fall will be a robust season.”
What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a president?
“The friendships that have been developed over the years is very satisfying. I also never tire of hearing about the things the players enjoy about playing and telling me so. One guy in our 60-over division recently replaced both knees and he told me what a great feeling it is to just be out there and see the guys and watch the games if he can’t play. It’s a wonderful feeling providing the opportunity for them to play. I never tire of those types of comments.”
Any advice to other league presidents who are awaiting their league openings?
“Communicate to ALL your members, not just the managers. Take advantage of social media to stay in touch. Keep information out there. Both Emails and social media are so important in case some young guys don’t deal with email. Any good news you get, share it. It’s important to let them know what’s going on. Communication, communication, communication. I kept telling everyone that we will be playing ball. Did I really know? Heck no. But they needed encouragement and positive feedback amidst all of the terrible news in the world today.”