By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
There’s a new sheriff in town in San Luis Obispo, California. The Central Coast MSBL/MABL, also known as SLO MSBL (San Luis Obispo), has shifted leadership from James Hixon to Ron Andante beginning in 2024. Central Coast has been an MSBL affiliate since 1993, while James has been the headmaster since around 2009. The 42-year-old Andante is looking forward to the new role.
“Last year James asked me to become vice president of the league with the intention of taking over this year,” Ron explained. “James simply decided that he wanted to step down for his own reasons and had the foresight to think ahead and lay the groundwork. I started playing in the league in 2019 and know most everyone and they know me. Last year was a good experience, as everyone was made aware of the change before we started in 2023. I’m glad he did it that way.”
The Central Coast league consists of eight teams in a 30-over format. But expansion is on the horizon.
“We may begin with nine teams this year but that represents a scheduling nightmare,” said Andante. “We might be able to stretch to ten teams if we put one together from free agents. We’ll have to see as the weeks progress. I sure hope it works and somebody steps forward to run the team, too.”
My discussion with Ron unveiled one of the most unique league rules that I have ever run across. The rule is geared toward keeping the young guys engaged so that they’ll easily transition into the league when they get to 30 years of age.
“Each team can have five players under 30, but instead of excluding young pitchers, we allow them to pitch a maximum of three innings per game. This actually involves some strategy from the manager. Should I close with him? Should I start him? Is he strong enough to spot him throughout the game? It creates a real chess match at times.
How has that worked? Are there any stories worthy of recalling?
“Actually, yes. A couple of years ago we had a guy about 20 years old who was a real flamethrower. He had all the pitches, too. He threw 92 or 93 (MPH) and guys couldn’t even make contact and put it in play. He no-hit the entire season while averaging eight strikeouts per every nine he faced! The irony is that the one guy who made contact was 72 years old and hit it back to him. That was domination like I have never seen.”
Ron’s real job is a landscaper and he also owns a turned bat company called 805 Bats. However, his baseball roots don’t involve baseball all of his life or dealing with the rigors of travel ball as a kid.
“I played some Little League and Babe Ruth but didn’t play high school or college ball. I remained in love with the game and used to simply go find a wall and throw against it. I loved baseball growing up. I played some softball until I heard about the league.
That is one of the things I am striving to correct as president. We need to get the word out there that there is baseball to be played as an adult. It doesn’t have to end. I had no idea it was even out there!”
Since the league is based in California, they have the luxury of starting the last week of March, which is earlier than most leagues, while continuing through the first or second week of September. Ron is the assistant to the manager of his league team, the Outlaws, and plays all nine positions, while priding himself on being a junk-baller from the mound.
“I think James looked to me because of my love of the game and my dedication. Every Sunday I am asked to stick around and help out another team if they are short. Since I never miss a game, I’m always available. I routinely play two and sometimes three games every Sunday.”
What are the biggest challenges you see in the years ahead for the league?
“Fields, team fees collected, and umpires. We’d like to house a dozen teams but that involves at least one more field and more umpires. This is a transition year so I don’t want to implement new rules or too many changes. Let’s all just get used to one another and then get creative maybe next year.”
I asked Ron about his participation in any MSBL national tournaments.
“I’ve played in two MSBL World Series in Arizona and three Kickoff Classics in Vegas. I have played for teams from Iowa and Oklahoma. We are hoping to send a team from the league someday but we are happy that a lot of players participate in the tournaments while helping other teams.”
Even though you are a rookie league president, what advice can you give others who are contemplating taking over, or starting a new league?
“Have a vision for what you want the league to be. Build relationships with managers, league organizers, players, community members, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Put the pride aside and make sure you get the correct answers.”
To illustrate Ron’s passion for showing prospective players how they can get back into the game, he spends a tremendous amount of time updating a website called ‘Adult Baseball Central’ that shows you leagues and tournaments across the country and how to get involved. Check it out: https://www.adultbaseballcentral.com/