How it all Began: A 35 Year Celebration of MSBL, Mike Juliano, Detroit MSBL (Fourth in a series)

Submitted by Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

Mike Juliano is the MSBL equivalent of being thrown off the dock to learn to swim.  Mike is the current league president of the Detroit MSBL, a post he has embraced since 1993.  How he became the president is the real backstory here.

“I began playing in the Detroit MSBL in 1991 at the urging of my good friend Joe Gorelski who was playing in the league,” Juliano recalled.  “Then in 1992, I noticed that a different league in Cincinnati had sponsors for all their teams and I thought it might be a good idea to bring up to the board as a way to defray some of the team costs.  So, when a winter meeting was scheduled for 1993, I asked if I could book a few minutes on their agenda to explain my findings to the managers.”

The league president at the time was Mike Nadeau and he said yes to Mike’s request and things got crazy from there.

“At that meeting, Mike announced that he had to step down because of time restraints so they were looking for a replacement and asked for nominees.  Rick Green nominated me, along with one other guy, so they asked the two of us to have a seat and relax while they conducted their vote. 

I was immediately elected as the new president and told to literally take over the meeting.  I had no idea what to do but since I was self-employed and not married, I had the time to put into it.  Then I met my wife during this period so you can safely say that she’s been on this journey every step of the way.  I met Margie on January 2nd, 1993, then was elected President on January 6th, 1993.”

The league had seven teams and a 30-game schedule when Mike took over in 1993. In comparison, in 2021 the Detroit MSBL played 660 games!  It still took Mike multiple weeks to make a seven-team schedule make any sense.  He had to learn what to do while the clock was ticking in preparation for the upcoming 1993 season. 

Steve Sigler was informed by Mike Nadeau (I think) that I was the new president so Steve called and we chatted a bit about what to do.  I wasn’t left out there adrift.  Tom Prendergast was the league president in Kansas City at the time, which he still is, and he was kind enough to supply me with some insight and was my training wheels for a while.  He was very kind to do that.  I was fortunate enough to finally meet them both in 1993 in the early days of the World Series in Arizona.”

Back then Detroit had a few leagues but they were pretty advanced so it left a void for everyday players who were simply looking for a way to keep playing.  Mike stopped playing baseball at the age of 17 and had nowhere to go so he was out of the baseball loop until he found the Detroit MSBL.  His own experience was the driving force behind his embracing taking the reins. 

“There was nowhere for an average amateur player to play.  That became my focus.  How can we build the league and reach all of those players?  We needed a league where anybody could play.  An over 30 league was totally unheard of at the time.  We advertised quite a bit and also relied on some positive word of mouth.”

What Mike discovered quickly, and reiterated many times during our conversation, is that you have to surround yourself with caring, competent people.  Nobody can do this alone, especially if you are organizing the operation of a 20, 30, 40, or 50 team league.  One appointment, in particular, stands out as his first stroke of genius.

Riechl Mayne has been our umpire in chief since 1993.  He takes care of that extremely important side of the ledger.  He remains in that position to this day.  I would truly be in deep trouble without Riechl in control of the umpires.  That may be the smartest thing I’ve ever done!”

Mike is also no stranger to the early days of the MSBL World Series in Arizona and Fall Classic in Florida.  The Detroit league started sending teams in 1989 and continues to be well represented over 30 years later.  Mike started going to Arizona in 1993 and preceded that with a trip to the Fall Classic in 1991.  He can’t say he has been there every year, as the birth of his son and daughter and the life change thereafter caused a family adjustment that didn’t allow a lot of travel ball for dad.

“Our Detroit Yankees went to the World Series from 1993 to 1996 and then my son Anthony came along in 1997.  We continued to play down there in 1998 and 1999 with a 40+ team that made it to the championship game both years but came up a little short.  I didn’t go from 2000 to 2013 because the kids were little and also in school.  When I returned to Arizona in 2013, I attended as a member of the Orioles, run by Tony Perrault, and then changed to our current Firebirds when I took over in 2017.  We play in the 55+ and 60+ divisions and this year will take the plunge into the 65+ arena.”

Mike is also no stranger to the Father/Son division at the World Series.

“My son Anthony was finally old enough in 2014 so we put together an Orioles team, which continued through 2019.  Unfortunately, it has been harder and harder to assemble enough fathers and sons to field a team.  We went down with 15 players in our last year, and anybody who has played in the World Series knows that isn’t enough, especially when you are splitting between fathers and sons.  Maybe someday we’ll make another appearance.”

Mike’s World Series teams have always been competitive but have been left at the altar more times than he likes to remember.

“I am a perfect 0-7 in championship games.  That must be some sort of record, though I hate to admit it!”

Under Mike’s guidance, the Detroit MSBL has been able to play an occasional weekend schedule at Tiger Stadium, back in the day, and most recently at Comerica Park.  They weren’t able to schedule a session from 2008 to around 2017 but they recently have been able to get back there.  It comes with a cost to participating players, of course, but the last time they were able to schedule a weekend, the entire thing sold out in 24 hours! 

“That is such a fun weekend and we even had to expand our capacity to allow more players to come.  We didn’t want to say no to anyone.  The problem now is that there is some new ownership and our ‘go to’ guy in the Tiger’s organization is no longer involved.  I hope we can still work it out somehow.”

I asked Mike if there was a moment that stands out in his many years of organizing, watching, and participating in the Detroit MSBL.  He found it hard to come up with any specific incidents, which we can blame on a keen sense of modesty, but one incident popped up that involved his soon-to-be wife.

“Back in 1994 Margie and I were watching ‘Angels in the Outfield’ on TV and the final home run in the movie brought smiles to our faces.  I then had a game the next day and I hit my very first home run.  Margie was not at the game but I did call her afterward and she said that she prayed the night before that I could hit a home run like in the movie!  Hmmm, I think I may need her to say a prayer again if we ever make it back to the championship game. 

A little side story about the home run, I was the third guy in a row to hit one out!  It was back-to-back-to-back homers!”

Any final thoughts?

“I have been organizing and playing MSBL baseball for a long time and it all boils down to friendships and memories created.  That is the biggest advantage to being associated with MSBL for over three decades.  We all continue to get older, the divisions grow older right along with us, but without the friendships being harvested for all of these years, there would be no divisions to play in.

I always say that I could drive cross country and never have to stay at a motel because I have so many friends that have been made throughout the years that I would stay in nothing but spare bedrooms and stay up all night and talk baseball.”

I do think that Detroit is successful because of the great managers and players that we have here.  For at least the past 10 years, Steve Kosuda has helped out a lot, especially last September when I was not able to perform the day-to-day duties due to a health issue.

In closing, the special moments that resonate in my MSBL History include getting elected to the MSBL National Hall of Fame in 2001, being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, and being honored as the MSBL Man of the Year in 2021.”