By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
As we continue in our 2022 series of ‘How it all Began’, a celebration of 35 years of MSBL baseball, our mission is to speak with a handful of our long-standing members and ask how they initially became involved in our baseball mission. There is no better person to contact than Max Reising, the current league president of the cornerstone Chicago North MSBL which hosts over 65 teams going into 2022. Max was inducted into the MSBL National Hall of Fame in 2007, received the MSBL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013, and just last year was the MSBL Co-Man of the Year. The credentials are off the charts but how did Max begin his MSBL journey? Below is his timeline, in Max’s own words.
“I had been playing hardball in San Francisco in the 70s but around 1981 I had to travel more with my job so I had to take baseball off the table. My business took me to Arizona so I made sure to coordinate that trip with spring training so that I could take in some games. But the baseball bug never left me.
In early January of 1988 back in the Bay Area, there was an article in the paper about a tryout for the Men’s Senior Baseball League that my brother saw in the paper and let me know.
The tryout was on a late January Friday night. Kurt Knop was holding the tryouts with a lot of guys on a high school field and afterward, they held a draft. I was selected to be on the Orioles and four of us were in our late 30s while the rest were in their 20s. It turns out I knew one of the ‘old timers’ from high school and we wound up playing together many years later. It’s amazing how MSBL helps people reconnect.
During this period, I was dating my current wife and she lived in Chicago. She was going to work in California and we were planning our lives together on the west coast but in 1989 the earthquake hit during the World Series and all of the phone lines went down and we couldn’t connect, which of course scared her back in Chicago. That earthquake changed her mind about the bay area and my life along with it. So that we could be together, I moved to Chicago. My work involved traveling a lot so it didn’t matter much where I was living.
In March of 1990, I was down to spring training and saw some guys playing on a field in Phoenix and asked if I could work out with them, as I always had my gear in the van with me. It turns out they were playing in the MSBL. They found out I lived in Chicago and wanted to play in the Windy City so they notified Steve Sigler about me and he hooked me up with the first Chicago North league president, Mike Pinto. They only had four teams then and Mike called and gladly asked me to play. That began my Chicago chapter of the MSBL. The team I joined had mostly older guys, like me, which was quite a change from San Francisco.
My move to Chicago led me to a lasting friendship with Bruce Zimmerman, who continues to play in the Chicago North MSBL and in the MSBL World Series. Zim has also become my business partner the past 22 years. But in 1992 our partnership almost came to an end as we got into a serious car crash and were almost killed while at the MSBL World Series. We were leading a caravan of six cars on I-17 and got hit by a guy heading the wrong way. We spun the van around three times and ended up on our side on the driver’s side, where I was driving. Bruce was riding shotgun and banged his head is against the side window. Steve Faigan was driving behind us, jumped out, and helped peel off the window so that they could pull us out. We survived but the van was totaled. That’s a heck of a way to start a partnership!
One funny story came about in 1993. I was a player for the Dodgers in the league but our manager suffered a mental breakdown in the middle of a game so I had to take over and was immediately deemed the player/manager. The funny part is that later on during the season I was on a really tight schedule to go from our game to the airport to attend a trade show in Orlando. I didn’t have time to change so I was running through the airport in my Dodger’s uniform and boarded the plane as a Dodger! Everyone thought I was a player or at least a coach. But at the other end, I still had to rent a car and go to the hotel in my uniform and got a few looks. I was a celebrity!
Steve Sigler, Mike Pinto, and Kurt Knop were my early influences. It’s amazing how they were able to build leagues and organizations in the days before social media. Newspapers and word of mouth were all they had and here we are today. Amazing.
In closing, MSBL has hugely impacted my life. In 2001 MSBL enabled me to become involved in the sports uniforms and equipment business with Zim and has spun into my being a league president for nearly 20 years. I may not have stayed in Chicago if it weren’t for the MSBL. It has allowed me to put the time and energy into the league and into friendships that have been created. Thank you for being there!”