How it all Began: A 35 Year Celebration of MSBL, Thomas Evans Krause, Puget Sound Senior Baseball League (Fifth in a series)
By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Tom Evans Krause has been the president of the tremendously successful Puget Sound Senior Baseball League in Washington state since 2006. The non-profit league boasts a total of 68 teams in 2022.
“We always experience annual attrition of maybe 15-20% so we host a series of March tryouts culminating in a league-wide draft,” explained Krause. “For 2022, 126 new players were selected to fill open roster spots on existing teams and we formed two new expansion teams. It was the biggest infusion of player talent since 2015.”
The PSSBL’s successful formula has also landed Tom well-deserved recognition from MSBL Founder and President Steve Sigler. Tom was named to the MSBL Hall of Fame in 2012. He was the recipient of the MSBL Lifetime Achievement award in 2016, inducted into the MSBL Honor Roll in 2018, and most recently was MSBL’s Man of the Year in 2019. This is all extremely impressive and noteworthy but how did this journey begin? We contacted Tom and asked him to fill in some background details for us.
‘My roots are firmly planted in Minneapolis while my career eventually took me to the Seattle area in 1990. I was still playing softball when I read the 1988 Sports Illustrated article about MSBL and was immediately intrigued. In 1995 that led me to a local MSBL ad promoting tryouts for the already established league. I was selected to be on an expansion team and a few of us ended up playing together on that team for 16 years.”
The PSSBL started in 1989 with only four teams. Ben Low is credited as the founder of the league. Curt Vinson, Craig Hogan, Chuck Woods, and Jeff Kyger served as league presidents through the ’90s and early 2000s. Tom took over in 2006. Tom’s experience was in radio, publishing, social media, and all things advertising. He was the perfect fit to take over an expanding league and as previously mentioned, has been instrumental in growing the league to 68 teams!
Tom came into the PSSBL as a first baseman/outfielder, where he still roams there in Seattle and at the MSBL World Series every year in Arizona. His World Series participation began in 2005.
“In 2005 I attended as a player/manager for the Puget Sound Gators. We went as the Gators, which really has nothing to do with the Seattle area because we were able to buy some lightly used jerseys during a fundraiser at the college where I taught. We got 20 jerseys, enrolled in the 35+ central division, and went 4-2 in our first year. We won our first playoff game but got knocked out in the semis with the tying run at the plate. We were hooked and my teams have been back every year since, either as the Gators or the Twins.
We spent the next year retooling the Gators and looked great on paper going into 2006. We won one game. That is so typical of baseball; it can break your heart. We rededicated ourselves and came back in 2007 and won it all. We were the Gators from 2005 to 2015 and our first effort as the Twins was in 2016. We won a ring in 2016 in the 35’s and then went to the 45’s and won in 2020. I still run the Twins and am now the player/manager of the Puget Sound Mariners in the 65s. How time flies!”
I asked Tom the formula for continuing to operate such a premier league.
“Each of our 10 divisions has a commissioner/board member and their input helps drive the league. Our Executive Board members have all done such a great job that they have been reelected as a group every year since 2017. It’s a perfect combination of dedicated, talented individuals.”
Regarding the league benefiting from Tom’s advertising and promoting expertise, the PSSBL’s ‘Day at the Show’ charity event was born in 2006 and was played at the Mariner’s Safeco Field, now T-Mobile Park seven different summers through 2017. The day of baseball was designed to assist the Make a Wish Foundation and has raised thousands of dollars until the event became too costly in 2018, as park rental fees increased under new management.
“The event was a wonderful opportunity for players to pay and play in a big-league park. We had a professional announcer, we could use the visitor’s locker room, we had a music engineer in the booth, walk-up music, a military color guard, National Anthem singers, and free admission. We also were honored to have Make a Wish kids throw out the first pitch. We attracted maybe 400 to 500 in the stands.
We charged about $300 per player. That fee paid for the stadium rental and the remainder went to the foundation. We scheduled two games with about 17-18 players on each team. I always examined who registered and carefully divided the teams to be equal and ensure a good, competitive game. Maybe someday we can get back there.”
What is your fondest memory of playing in MSBL tournaments?
“The first time we won the World Series in 2007 remains the high point. We won 7-6. That was so very special, particularly after only winning one game the year before. My father-in-law, Chuck Jacques, passed away suddenly just a couple of years before and was a huge baseball guy. As I remained in the dugout while everyone else was jumping on the mound after the victory, it was emotional thinking about him. I was also thinking about my own father at that moment, who taught me the game.”
I will admit I had an ‘are you kidding me?’ moment when I asked Tom about the funniest thing he has ever witnessed in his many years on the diamond. His answer came quickly and with embedded detail.
“A guy – let’s call him Bill – played on my league team for a number of years and was a pitcher/infielder. Our starting pitcher ran out of gas one game and I called on Bill to relieve, even though he had just arrived a little late to the park. He wasn’t able to get very loose, and also had a history of being a tad wild at times.
So predictably he hits a batter. He then attempted to pick the player off first base but the ball hit him and bounced away so he’s now on second base. Bill then tried to pick him off second and hit him again, as the ball skipped away. Now the runner is at third and you guessed it, Bill tried another pickoff. Yes, he hit the player again and he scored. He hit the same guy four times in one sequence!”
I always make it a point to ask our long-standing members if there are individuals in their journey who have been influential to them both on and off the field.
“My dad, Don, passed away in 2012. He was my biggest supporter. We were always throwing the ball around when I was growing up and he was always there, win or lose while teaching me the proper approach to the game, not just mechanics. My Father-in-Law Chuck, who was an associate scout for the Cubs and Blue Jays, would talk baseball and sports in general with me all the time. My wife, Nicole, the love of my life, has been behind me all the way.
John Lipe was my high school coach and allowed me to play as a ninth-grader. He would take the time to hit me fly balls over and over, just the two of us because he saw something in me. I was able to play on the varsity as a freshman because of his caring approach. I’ll never forget him.
Lastly, being from Minneapolis, I was a big fan of Twins manager Tom Kelly in the way he associated with his team and how he handled himself. He was a true inspiration to the way I play, manage, and even preside as league president.”
Tom thanked the PSSBL leadership and members as well as Steve Sigler and wanted me to publish the PSSBL mission statement, something he and the members are very proud of. Thank you, Tom, for all you do and what you mean to the Men’s Senior Baseball League.
Puget Sound Senior Baseball League Mission Statement:
“The PSSBL provides a quality baseball experience including a variety of skill and competition levels for adults ages 18 and above who share a love of America’s pastime and respect how the game should be played”.