League President Profile: Mark Stone, Dodgertown West

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

Dodgertown West League President Mark Stone has been a member of the league since 1999 and became the secretary/treasurer in 2003.  The top job of President became his in March of 2022, after many years of helping ensure the success of the league during his involvement. 

It’s a special time to be associated with the Dodgers, for sure.  We asked Mark to explain how the league came to be and to convey his baseball journey and philosophy to us in a series of interesting inquiries.  Enclosed is Mark’s invaluable insight.  Thanks, Mark!

What is the history of the league and how did it start?  We began in 1984.  A group of guys had just participated in the Dodgers Fantasy Camp at the Dodgers Spring Training home at Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida in 1983.  On their return home, this group wanted to continue the camaraderie they felt at camp and the fun they had playing ball.  They started by meeting at a local park and, like the sandlot days, picked teams and played ball.

Rumor has it that Steve Sigler was out in LA around ’85 or ’86 and was asked by a friend of his to join in a Sunday game.  It was from this game and the experience that MABL and MSBL were envisioned and began.  It’s my understanding that we’ve been a member of MSBL since its inception.

As a loose affiliation of the Dodgers’ fantasy camp, we received the blessings of the then Dodger ownership and became known as Dodgertown West.  After each ensuing fantasy camp, more guys (and gals) came out to play, and the next thing they knew they had enough for four teams and then six, secured regular fields, and played a regular schedule.  Dodgertown West has played ball continuously since 1984.

The league’s continuity has been such that we still have members who were around in the initial days.  We’ve had four presidents, or as we call them Commissioners: Tom Chandler, Joe Mauser, Neil Adams, and me!

What age divisions of play are now offered?  We play with only one division, maintaining the original age range from camp, namely 30 years and older.  Our current roster has active playing members as young as 30 and as old as 82.  Most of our members are, however, in their late 50s and 60s.  In addition, we tend to modify our local playing rules to accommodate the varying skill levels of our members.  Similar to what MSBL has done with the 70+ WS rules.  With us, it’s more about the camaraderie and playing than the competition and who wins the league each season.

How many teams are anticipated this year? Five

When does the league begin play and when will it finish, including playoffs?  We play year-round.  Two seasons, Spring/Summer runs from March through September and Fall/Winter from October through February.  We don’t have playoffs.

When did you personally start playing in the league?  I started playing with DTW in the Spring of 1999 after attending the Dodgers Fantasy Camp in February 1999.

What is your personal baseball playing history?  As a kid, I played Little League and Pony/Colt.  I played during high school (1965-1967) and was a walk-on for my freshman year at UCLA (1967/68).  After college, law school, and working a bit, I became a youth coach in 1977.  While pursuing a legal career, I also coached continuously from 1977 to 1999 at which time I began playing again.  I have played with DTW locally and in MSBL tournaments since.

In 2011, after retiring from practicing law, I became the middle school coach at Campbell Hall Middle and High School (Studio City, CA).  Then in 2017, I became the varsity head coach at Valley Torah High School (Valley Village, CA) where I am today.

In addition to coaching and running/playing with DTW, I am also the Executive Director for a non-profit that operates two baseball tournaments each year as fundraising events.  The first is a spring 3-day weekend tournament in Las Vegas at the beginning of May and the second is a fall week-long event akin to a fantasy camp held the second week in November.

When did you become president?  I became president officially in March 2022 but have had a major role in running the league since 2003 when I became the secretary/treasurer.

Who were your predecessors and are they still involved in any capacity?  As mentioned above, my predecessors were Tom Chandler, Joe Mauser, and Neil Adams.  Unfortunately, Joe and Neil have passed.   Tom now plays a lot of pickleball but although he doesn’t play baseball anymore, he stays in touch and helps to recruit.

What is your most memorable MSBL moment as a president or a player?  Probably participating in and winning the MSBL World Series Championships for our division in 2004 and again in 2013.

What challenges did you face when you started the league or when you took over?  When I became involved, the challenges were mainly administrative.  From a playing aspect, the league appeared to be running fine.  We had two regular fields, we were playing every Sunday, and all was good.  I became involved however when the then-treasurer suddenly passed.  I volunteered and moved to get the administrative aspects in order.  To say the books were a mess is putting it mildly.

I proceeded to computerize everything, put us on the web, and established a system to track member stats.  The transition to president was much less daunting since by the time I took over, due to the health issues of our previous president, I had already assumed much of the responsibility of the day-to-day operations.

What are your biggest challenges today?  Our biggest challenges today center around two aspects.  First, maintaining our membership level.  As previously mentioned, our greatest source of members came from recruiting at the Dodgers Fantasy Camps.  Although we continue to try to recruit from those camps, our access has been severely limited by the Dodgers thus making recruiting very difficult.  But we have also reached out to other leagues in our area.  These leagues tend to skew more toward the younger players and so we’re able to attract the older players who are getting less and less playing time.

The other challenge is field availability.  We originally had two fields that were solid locations for us for years.  Since the pandemic, one of those fields no longer rents out to us.  We’re working with local high schools but they are not always consistent with availability and access.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction?  Going out to a game on any given Sunday and seeing 24 guys play ball.  Especially satisfying is when a member (either long-standing or new) brings his kid(s) out to play. It’s great to see those bonding moments.  The benefits of not having age divisions.

What do you see for the league in the future?  I foresee us staying pretty much status quo.  Our membership currently stands at about 110 between drafted and pool players.  Based on the number of new and retiring members over the last few years, I expect us to remain at this level going forward.

What is the reason for the continued success of the league?  I believe that the camaraderie and the emphasis on this rather than who wins and who loses seems to be the primary factor.  Don’t misunderstand, when we play, we all try to win the game but winning at all costs is not the mantra.  Rather, everyone gets significant playing time regardless of their abilities and “the errors we make” is the code.

We get the “winning” element in the tournaments we play in, be it MSBL events like the Desert Classic, Memorial Day Tournament, and the annual World Series or our local tournaments with our fantasy camp brethren in the West Coast Fantasy Baseball Association.  Our league play is much more laid back.  The older members love it and the new members see it as a breath of fresh air as they move away from the more competitive league play.

What part of running the league do you enjoy most?  More than just playing each week, it keeps me involved with everyone.  I get to know the members and their families more than if I were just on a team and got to know my 12-15 teammates.

Do you still play in the league?  Yes

What is the history of your league team’s participation in any MSBL national tournaments?  I know that we’ve had at least one team but sometimes two or three playing in the WS every year since I joined the league in 1999.  I understand that we played for many years before that as well.  I know that we have also played for many years in the Desert Classic in Palm Springs and have played in the Memorial Day event since its inception.

What would you say are the most important accomplishments in your league?  Well, not just our longevity as a league in general but the fact that our members tend to stay in the organization for many years.  I’m going into my 25th year as a member and a good 25% of our membership have a similar number of years with the organization.

How valuable is your relationship with MSBL?  Our relationship with MSBL is extremely valuable.  We rely on it for some of our administrative needs like insurance and supplies. But maybe more importantly it provides us with that outlet for our competitive drives.  I love wearing my two championship rings!

What advice would you give to new league presidents?  This is a tough one.  I’d say first and foremost be sure that you have a congenial and supportive staff.  And no matter how small your league may be, delegate responsibilities to that staff.  It’s almost impossible to do it all yourself.

How important is family support?  This is the most important aspect of anything you might do.  I know, I’ve been there.  Life, whether in work or play, is so much sweeter when your family understands what that work or play means to you and supports you in your endeavors.