Johnny Billera: Controlling the Game On and Off the Field at the Long Island Midweek MSBL
By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Here’s Johnny! Johnny Billera started in the Long Island Midweek MSBL in 1998 when he was 19 years old and is still controlling the game from behind the dish for two different teams and as the league’s social media manager, now at the age of 47. Johnny is very active in Tim Hott’s Long Island Midweek MSBL and works hard to keep everyone up to date daily.
“I’m starting my 25th season this year,” said Johnny. “I reached out to Tim in 1998 after hearing about the league and he set me up with the Long Island Yankees. I then started my own team, the Midville Dodgers, which we kept together for 20 years. We have now started the New York Wolves, as we had to merge with another team to make it work. The Wolves are only in our second year but are having a ball. I play and manage both Wolves teams and love every minute.”
One aspect of Johnny’s organizational personality was convincing Tim that the league needed a bigger presence and new channels of player and manager communication.
“I was always nudging Tim to get into Instagram and other platforms. Players can check instantly about field conditions, and check-in for any communication about games or their team, so the days of waiting for a phone call are pretty much in the past. We needed to step it up a little. My teams have their own Instagram accounts so I can stay in communication with everyone and make sure who will be there and what to anticipate. We also use the Game Changer app to chart everything going on with my teams. The guys love stats!”
Johnny is a catcher, just like his favorite player, Russell Martin.
“I started catching in 1990. My dad was also a catcher. I grew up a Mets fan but later on, became a huge fan of Russell. I tried to emulate his game and even took his number. When I turned 40, my wife surprised me with a trip to Florida to go to the Dodger’s spring training camp. I waited three hours after a game to get his autograph but couldn’t find him.
I was chatting with the security person while I was waiting and told him the story of my wife doing this for me, so the guy went over to Russell’s truck and cleared us a path to his truck. We went to the truck, shook his hand, and he signed a jersey for me. He is a great guy.”
Johnny never played high school or college baseball and just bounced around in rec leagues until he found Tim’s Long Island league. He proudly never played softball, either! Is there a moment in the Long Island Midweek MSBL that sticks out?
“One year, I think 2013, we had Dodger teams in the 18+ and 25+ divisions and won both leagues. We then went 11-0 in the fall and won that championship, too. That was a pretty successful year, for sure.”
What is the best thing about your league? “The organization aspect, combined with professionalism and integrity. I continually tell Tim that if we stick to rules and do things by the book and avoid any ‘good old boy’ scenarios, we’ll keep everyone on board. That’s what keeps everybody a satisfied customer.”
I asked Johnny what his greatest baseball moment is, either watching or playing. He was quick to share his successes.
“I have never been a home run hitter, but I started tinkering with my swing and got some advice and took hitting lessons from a wonderful hitting coach, Robb Paller. He’s the reason I’ve been having success this late in the game. I worked with him over the last five seasons to retool my swing and it has really helped. He is an Olympic athlete, having played for Team Israel in the 2021 WBC.”
How has Robb’s influence helped you?
“He was showing me many things and there was a night game not long ago where I hit my first home run over the fence, thanks to Robb. What is ironic is that just a couple of weeks ago in our first game of the 2023 season, I hit another one over the center field fence. I guess I’m a late-blooming power hitter!”
In closing, I want to mention that on April 24th of this year, Johnny collected career hit #640. Whether hitting dingers or line drives, I think it is safe to say that Johnny is dialed-in up there in the Long Island Midweek MSBL.