By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Joe Cantrell is in his second stint as the League President of the Southwest Ohio Miami Valley Adult Baseball League, a position he first embraced in 1996 and held until 2002. The now-retired police officer had to back away from the post because of too many work commitments but was voted into the position in 2019 when he had more time to offer. The 62-year-old is now playing part-time, managing full-time, and is still doing his thing on the field as well as keeping things together for everyone.
Rob Johnson is a good friend and a member of the league Media Relations Board and supplied us with a recommendation to feature Joe, since Joe quietly goes about his business and shies away from the spotlight. Rob said it was time we all knew Joe a little better.
“Joe has been a part of the league from the very beginning (1995), not only as a player and coach but is now in his second stint as league president for the MVABL,” explained Johnson. “Joe’s leadership style blends an old-school respect for the game with a modern edge flare for fun and excitement. Because of this, the league has flourished under his supervision seeing dramatic expansion with more fields, games, players, and teams than ever before.
While Joe has been a great leader and influencer for the entire league, he has also put up great numbers as a player and coach as well. As a two-time league ‘Coach of the Year’ winner, Joe has amassed a career record of 173-140 with two league championship titles. As a player, Joe has always been known as a tough out at the plate. ‘Mr. Line Drive’ is a 4-time All-Star with a career .411 average over 14 seasons. When you are talking about the history of baseball in the MVABL, you can’t do so without discussing the many contributions of Joe Cantrell.”
Rob was also one of the founding members and a member of the Astros while Joe was with Mariners in the beginning. Joe now heads up the Wild Boars. But even as Joe’s playing and managing achievements are noteworthy, his focus has always been on improving and expanding the league, primarily centered around Dayton.
“The Dayton Amateur Baseball League has been an over-30 league for a long time while we are 18-over and part of the MABL,” said Joe. “I have always wanted us to be together under one umbrella so that we could supply a well-established footing for adult leagues in our area. We wanted to bring a quality league on a competitive level. We now consist of a solid 14-team league.
One stumbling point was that the older guys wanted wood and the young guys wanted to stick with aluminum so the BBCOR bat sort of leveled the field. If you want to swing wood you can, but aluminum needs to be BBCOR. The umps can tell the difference.”
Joe grew up in West Milton, Ohio, and played all through high school and then attended college in Beaumont, Texas where he was a catcher, where he, unfortunately, suffered an injury that affected his throwing. His next baseball stop was his current Miami Valley Adult Baseball League in 1995. Joe now plays first base more than he catches, but he’s still playing the game.
“In our first year, we were the Sharks because the manager had a shark hat. That lasted about three weeks. We won the first championship and then I branched out and formed the Mariners. We won some titles and created a really good core of people. We spun off as the Devil Rays a few years later and won in our first year. The Wild Boars is the third team that I have been fortunate enough to manage.”
Joe has also been a participant and coach at the MSBL Fall Classic, which he attended in the early years through 1999.
“I am trying to take the Boars to Florida (Fall Classic) this year. I hope to keep them baseball-focused into October but sometimes that’s a little tough with college football around here.”
Joe emphasized that he is the league rule maker and if they violate the rules, they pay the penalty, which lends itself to a big reason for their success.
“You need to back up what you say and draw a line in the sand. The hard calls are always tough to make. Steve Sigler has always counseled me on maintaining that approach and his advice is greatly appreciated.
Social media has created some challenges because anyone can post anything they want on our Facebook page and some have tried to criticize or post negative comments about someone or a situation. It’s a fine line between censorship and free speech but you have to be careful it doesn’t cross the line. I watch it closely and will contact anyone who gets a little too personal. But you have to be tough, just like with your kids.”
What are your greatest baseball moments?
“I don’t mean any disrespect to my other teams, but in 1999 my second team, the Devil Rays, was a once-in-a-lifetime group of guys. They were special on and off the field and can’t be replicated. Up to that point, a new team had never won the championship but we pulled it off.
The personal part of my time playing baseball is that I am only 11 short of 250 hits in my MABL career. I hope to hang around long enough to get to 300 but I don’t have much control over that. I also have 170 or so wins as a manager and would like to reach 200. Hopefully, those goals are doable as I hope to round out my days on the diamond.
I would like to add that I would not be where I am without the support of a great group of coaches and players in the MVABL. We would also be lost without the support of MSBL National and all you guys do for us.
And of course, without the loving support of my family and wife of 32 years, Tonya, who puts up with all the time I spend away, none of this would be possible.”