By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Rick Stockfield has been heading up the Hudson Valley-Westchester MSBL in New York the past five years and began playing in the league in 1996. The league was established in 1990 as the Hudson Valley Rookie League and in 1996 the HVMSBL spun off and became what it is today. On July 7th they kicked off their 2020 season.
The HVMSBL consists of two divisions: The 35+ Division, allowing three players 30 or older, which plays predominantly weeknights and the 45+ Division, allowing three players 40 or older, which plays mostly Saturday mornings. In 2020 the league boasts 19 teams.
“Our 35-over division consists of 13 teams right now and is split into a National and American format,” explained Stockfield. “The National division consists of the most competitive teams. Our rules state that the winner of the American division moves up the next year while the lowest record in the National can move down. That keeps us in line with some pretty fair competitive balance.”
Geographically, the league covers Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Fairfield and Northern Westchester Counties.
“Our league has steadily grown over the years to our current 19 teams. We’re proud to state we’re the longest running men’s league north of New York City. One of our main goals is to offer all players of all abilities a place for players to play ball. And when we do, we help by providing new teams with full catcher’s gear, helmets and a credit for jerseys…at OUR cost!”
New York as a state has certainly had it’s share of virus activity in 2020 so what league rules have been mandated after taking into consideration all state and county guidelines?
“Early on in our meetings I asked the managers what they wanted, not just telling them what to do. Anybody who wanted to opt out got a full refund and made that clear up front. We bought temperature gauges for every team so the players could have their temperature checked while being asked questions if they traveled to any states who are voided from coming to New York or if they had been around anybody who had covid. We track it in a log and fill it out every game. With all of the tracing we want to be able to help if someone tests positive and make sure our league is never shut down by any officials stating we hadn’t done all we could do. Only specific details will ensure that.
Since we were one of the last states to open, I had the benefit of reviewing what other states had done. We took into consideration other league’s actions as well as the New York state set of guidelines and also the recommendations of our umpire’s association and MSBL. Our umpires decided to stay behind the mound so we decided to only use only one umpire for now. He can call first base from behind the mound and everyone is happy with the arrangement so we’ll see how it plays out.”
How has the late start impacted the league’s schedule?
“We got a little unique in that area. Since there is such a field shortage because of youth baseball’s late start and other organizations facing what we have, we decided that there won’t be any make-up games. We stacked the regular season on additional nights and actually scheduled the same amount of games for the year. However, if it rains your game is lost. There is no room for re-scheduling. We will also be playing over Labor Day weekend. The players just want to play ball so we’ll give them a summer full of opportunity to do so.”
Rick is still very active on the field as well as behind the scenes. You’ll find him both in the coach’s box and the batter’s box.
“I manage a team as well as play in the 45-over division. I have played in all but three MSBL Fall Classics since 1996 and have been to Arizona for the World Series a few times. I think it’s important to be in the mix with the guys and not just tapping away on a computer.”
Any additional comments about your journey to your July 7th kickoff?
“One thing I am very proud of is that as a non-profit we are very aware of giving back to our communities who are so generous in allowing us to use their facilities.
My point is that we decided to go with only one umpire so that we created some additional savings to help our partners in the area. We give $500 donations to local Little Leagues and even though we pay the one umpire more money, we had some money left over for this purpose. For example, we were able to also buy some clay to fix some area mounds and batter’s boxes to help their fields and eliminate the huge holes and dust bowls pitchers and batters create. The county workers see us out there working on the fields and appreciate what we are doing and guarantees our ability to continue playing there. We’re all in this together.”
Stockfield concluded, “Our managers are awesome. Without great people in charge you have nothing. We wouldn’t be playing right now if not for everyone in the league being on board. It makes my job a lot easier and much more rewarding. I’ll do everything I can to ensure that they stay on the field this year.”