By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Kip Zelenak plays in the Cleveland MSBL. Ok, big deal. We all play somewhere, right? So, what’s the story here? Kip is 64 years old. That is admirable but many of the current MSBL members have reached that milestone or beyond, including yours truly. Kip is also a pitcher who enjoys much success back in the land of the Guardians and the Browns. Here’s the catch. Kip pitches in a 25 and over league and currently throws to a catcher 40 years younger!
To put the exclamation mark on his accomplishments, Kip was the winning pitcher in the championship game in 2016 and also went 9-0 in 2020 and started on the bump in the championship game. He currently resides on the hill for the Cleveland Cobras in the 14-team, 25-over, Silver division.
“I just love to pitch,” Zelenak stated while reciting the obvious. “Pitching is more fun to me than any other activity or sport. My attitude is that I’m not afraid of anybody and I want to strike everybody out. I don’t mean that to sound arrogant. I just feel that a pitcher needs the attitude that he is going to get the job done and has no fear, regardless of the ages of the guys you are facing.
The group of guys I play with is super supportive. I suppose some of the newer players in the league wonder what grandpa is doing out there but hopefully when they see me throw, they will come around.”
Kip also plays in tournaments in Florida, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Dallas, and even Cuba, to name a few. Yes, he has thrown for teams a little closer to his age.
“I played in older divisions in Canton maybe five or six years ago. I began playing baseball in the area somewhere around 1992, I think. I also play on Steve’s Sports tournament team once in a while. I’ll probably head to Florida to play this fall. Baseball is a great game and I just love to compete, regardless of the age.”
Like so many of us who still play this great game, Kip picked up a ball when he was four years old and hasn’t put it down yet.
“My dad played ball in the early 50s and also played fastpitch softball. His grandfather played baseball for local town companies and planted the family roots for playing. My dad always emphasized defense more than batting practice. We would play catch more frequently than we hit buckets of balls. I can still hear him shouting ‘two hands,’ ‘two hands!’
Kip’s journey mirrored many an MSBL journey. He was a small kid and usually the smallest in the class. He was never a star athlete but he always knew he wanted to pitch. They built a mound and would spend hours pitching and catching, day in and day out.
“The electric wire was always the home run. We couldn’t wait to get outside and play ball all day.”
Kip played softball like so many of us as adulthood took hold, as there wasn’t an outlet for baseball. To make things worse, Kip tore his labrum when he was throwing a snowball at 30 years of age. That kept him away from all throwing of any sort for a while.
“About six or seven years after my labrum incident, my brother witnessed some of the MSBL World Series in Arizona back in 1991 or ’92 and told me about it and that was it. He started a team in Cleveland so I joined him. I even managed the team for a while. I jumped to the Cobras about ten years ago and play for our league president Tony Martin now.”
Is there a secret to being a success on the mound as retirement age is nipping at your heels?
“I don’t have a secret other than keep doing what you love. My fastball isn’t what it used to be but I have a decent slider and mix in a knuckleball, though I throw it hard and don’t float it up there. I’m always experimenting. I never know if I am starting until I show up at the field but I warm up pretty quickly and will do whatever is needed.
I wish I could throw twice a week but I’ll settle for once. I hate to miss a week, though. I get rusty. The guys really make me feel young. I can’t wait to get there on Sundays.”
Kip has a very good old, leathery friend who has made the journey every step of the way over the past 50 years.
“When I was 14 or 15 years old, I found a three-fingered glove in the woods. (Picture at top of story) It was a Walt Moryn autographed model and I still use it once in a while. It freaks everybody out but it’s fun to play with because it makes you get down and use two hands, just like dad used to preach. Thanks for the advice, dad!”