By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Jeff Travis, known by most as just Travis, is the ‘Right Hand’ and vice-president to Don Pike, league president of the Atlanta MABL/MSBL, a position Jeff has held the past 17 years. I interviewed Jeff but Jeff followed up by sending me a synopsis of his baseball memories, which always flows smoother when in somebody’s ‘own words.’ To change things up a little here, that is what we are going to do. Following, as another installment of our strolling down memory lane as part of the 35th anniversary of the Men’s Senior Baseball League, are Jeff’s own words outlining his journey. Enjoy!
Jeff Travis…Atlanta MABL/MSBL
I moved to Atlanta, from Rochester, NY in the Fall of ’94 and started playing in the Atlanta MABL/MSBL in 1995 after seeing an ad on a board at a golf driving range – it was a sign that I was to continue my baseball career after ten years in ‘The ROC’ that culminated in a championship.
I took over as webmaster in 1998 and was essentially the right-hand man to the late Steve Rosenburg, then for Don Pike when he took over the leagues and bestowed the fancy VP title. I perform various tasks, such as webmaster, player pool coordinator, umpire (out of retirement after 36 years), Don’s ‘Bad Cop,’ as I collect delinquent funds, and have even repossessed a league-owned lawnmower! Both relationships were/are like a mix of an old married couple and Grumpy Old Men (Lemmon & Matthau) but both work great and provide excellent results as our focus is the same – provide adults the ability to continue to play a game that they love and to assist local high school programs with resources, such as money, equipment, field maintenance, etc. We are proud that our Atlanta MABL/MSBL history, is OUR history since the beginning.
I have won league championships with various teams over the years, including the Rockies, Mets (love ya Randy Melton), and Dodgers. I have played in various Memorial Day tournaments, the Georgia Games, which the Atlanta MABL/MSBL ran back in the day, and possess two rings from the Fall Classic with the Daytona Beach Rangers. I have also won back-to-back championships in the ‘Santa Shuffle’ tournament in Atlanta with teams generated from player pool submissions, and have added new friends and teammates because of this.
Being connected to the league has allowed me a few fun events and opportunities, such as being a body double for Maddux/Smoltz (hairline is very similar) for a lead in commercial on TBS for Braves games and taking part in a documentary that uses baseball as a metaphor for the USA, ‘Made in America,’ where I went in with intentions of being a player, but ended up as an umpire! ‘American Made’ Documentary Shows Importance of U.S. Manufacturing (madeinamerica.com)
Over all these years, I have been able to continue to play while coaching 60+ seasons which is possible when you have three sons and multiple seasons (spring/fall) of youth rec/travel baseball while performing as a Doyle Baseball Instructor and running the Sandy Plains Baseball Academy. Giving back and helping players learn the game the right way provides more satisfaction than any of the championships.
This is echoed by former pro Rusty Meacham (aka El Caballo Loco), whom I played with on the Daytona Beach Rangers and who I use as a resource to learn the finer details of pitching. He also takes time to call my youth teams and impart wisdom, mainly about doing good in school, respecting your parents, and working hard – or GRINDING!
The first year I met Rusty, I did not think much about it when we won a ring at the Fall Classic but he continued to ask, “when are we getting our rings?” When it finally arrived it definitely made receiving it a lot more cherished because an eight-year major leaguer was anxious to receive his.
There is a story about why baseball is so great and is due to my MABL/MSBL connections. After a Fall Classic game in Florida, I was in the hotel hot tub (un-prepared w/swim wear so sporting boxers, not briefs) with the team, which included Dante Bichette, who was about 47 at the time. I asked him, “why do you still play?” His reply was, “Why do you?” I said, “Touché my man, touché,” and then took a sip of my long-neck bottle of beer.
Years back, I approached Donnie Pike (current League President) about playing on his team, the Reds, but had a stipulation that I had to wear my long-time jersey number – #14, which was his number. The deal was made. That is Donnie’s nature. He truly would give you the shirt off his back.
That interaction leads to what has become to be known as the ‘Miracle on Dirt’ during the Georgia Games in 2002, I was brought in to play with the White Sox (who oddly wore green) but wore my Reds #14 uniform and was playing against my former team, the Cherokees. It was the ninth inning, two outs, and after having warmed up in the bullpen off and on for six innings, I was finally able to enter the game, but as a pinch runner.
Not being known for my speed, it actually took the player I was running for to have a double hernia for me to run. Regardless, my being deceptively slow paid off in the ability to draw throws. There was a chopper in front of the mound that the pitcher picked up and overthrew first. I am lumbering around second and look back seeing Mike Veronesi (2B, and now long-time MSBL player) retrieving the ball so I kick it in for third.
As I approach third, being tended by Frank Peters (now long-time Manager of the Cherokees), I of course go full Pete Rose headfirst slide into third. The ball goes by Frank to the fence and now I only have 90 feet to go. Motivated by the third base coach and insistence to go…go…go, I get up and take off for home and while doing so, try to align myself between where the ball is and home plate. Maybe not fast, but smart.
As I approach home, the catcher dropped to block a one-hopper, took it off the chest and it drops to the ground at which point I just lunge for home, again in Pete Rose head first fashion, completing a most unlikely 270’ scamper around the base paths. Upon reflection of this slow-motion-appearing play, one teammate dubbed it, ‘The Miracle on Dirt.’
As exciting as that was, it takes a back seat to one very special moment involving my middle son. It was in our 2022 Memorial Day tournament where my 16-year-old pitched for Donnie’s Reds. I was supposed to relieve him but by the time the dust had settled he had thrown an 84 pitch, 3-hit, no walk, 10 K shutout, and all I was able to do was slip in for the ninth inning to play first base. During this outing, he actually threw a ten-pitch immaculate inning. Ten pitches is not an immaculate inning you say…well, the umpire lost track of the count on the second batter and before anyone could bring it up he had thrown strike ‘four’ (which was actually a foul tip upping the level of difficulty even more), and then went on to retire the next batter on three strikes. That day is hard to beat. The 84th pitch….https://youtu.be/fv2Hh-EDfAU
Looking to the future, I plan to play as long as my body allows me and to continue to help run the unparalleled, best adult baseball league in Atlanta.