MSBL 35th Anniversary Spotlight: Bob Pone, the ‘Dirtbag’ of the SoCal MSBL
By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Bob Pone is a dirtbag. That is evident as you review some of the pictures within this story. He dives for balls as a middle infielder and steals more than his share of bases. Even his wife, Robyn calls him a dirty player but solely based on the tons of dirt that have cycled through their washer. However, his title is based solely on hustle and determination.
Bob resides in the SoCal MSBL, where league president Jef Brown describes him as a truly outstanding player. At 57 years old, his playing pedigree reaches far and wide, both in the league and as a participant in MSBL national tournaments.
“I started in the league in 1992 and played on the Aztecs, run by then league president Dennis Swartout,” explained Pone. “I have been playing for the OC (Orange County) Sox for maybe the last four years. We are managed by John Berryman and Cobi Cradle and are usually in the thick of things. They are a great bunch of guys and pretty solid on the diamond. I love them because they have a great baseball IQ.”
Bob also has an amazing tournament resume with some top-level teams throughout the years. His first MSBL World Series ring (out of eight) came in 2003 as a member of the Cubs, who were primarily compiled of Southern California players.
“That team was run by Rex De La Nuez and very good. I have a ring with the older Sacramento Tribe, a few with Team Victory, the Sundevils managed by Dennis Swartout, and the Boston Wolfpack. My most special championship came in the Father/Son division with the Quakes. I was able to play alongside my dad and my son. I also have a ring from the Fall Classic as a member of the San Antonio Reds.”
Bob will be playing for the OC Sox in the 50-over division of this year’s World Series and with the Wolfpack in the 55-over division.
“There is still a chance I can play alongside my son for the Quakes again this year in the Father/Son division but he is a ‘Hot Shot’ and it’s unsure right now where he may be fighting a fire. We’ll have to play that one by ear.”
I asked my usual question about where he was playing, if at all, prior to finding MSBL. I didn’t get the usual ‘softball’ response.
“Yes, I played in other baseball leagues in the early 90s, and my buddies and I thought we’d give the MSBL league a try. That was back in 1992 and we loved it and have been playing here ever since.”
Bob has also participated in the MSBL Vegas tournaments. It seems like if there is a place to play some ball, just give him a call.
“We won the Las Vegas Open with a team I assembled a couple of years back, the Villa Park Vandals. We have also played in San Quentin against the inmates. That was in 2019 and I took my dad and my wife inside to watch. My son played on our team. It was an amazing experience. The San Quentin shortstop is getting out shortly and he’ll be playing in our league!”
Bob’s entire family has baseball or softball roots and they live for the game. As he put it, “the whole family is big baseball.”
“My wife Robyn played college softball and we got married on the field in 1996. I am a middle infielder and my most remarkable achievement is that in either baseball or softball I have rolled a double play to my wife, daughter, son, and nephew. We are ‘all in’ on the field and simply love playing our great game.”
As mentioned, Bob is a middle-infielder but plays anywhere at any time. This weekend, for example, he will be playing all nine positions in the league just for fun. He has done this multiple times.
“The only problem is that I am a thrower and not a pitcher. I don’t anticipate a very good line after my inning!”
Is there a moment on the field, either in the league or a tournament, that resonates as a lifetime highlight?
“That is easy. It would be in 2015 and playing in the Father/Son division of the World Series and winning with the Quakes with my dad Bob and my son Tanner and our being able to share the dugout with them both. That is the number one highlight of my career.”
To go a step further, what is the craziest thing you have ever witnessed in your long career?
“In Palm Springs at the Desert Classic, we won a championship with Team Victory in the bottom of the 18th inning! It ended in a 2-1 ball game and Greg Bertrand threw all 18 innings. Doug Thigpen and I tied it with a safety squeeze earlier in the game and it stayed tied for a long time. We finally won it on a sac fly.
One catcher caught all 18 innings and I played nine at third base and nine at second. The funny part is that we were playing on a college field and their team had a practice scheduled, and we were obviously running long, but they were really nice and gathered around and watched it play out. The coach said he had a blast watching us!”
No decades-long baseball journey is ever accomplished alone. Who have been some of the people you would like to thank for helping you along the way?
“There are a ton of guys who have had an impact on me, on and off the field, but other than Robyn, Steve Sigler tops the list. He built this world we get to play in. I get to continue to play the game I have loved my whole life. Thank you!
My wife is 100% in on baseball and all that goes with it. Without Robyn’s blessing and love of the game, and of me, none of this would be possible.
Our league president, Jef Brown is a class individual and is always there for all of us. He makes it easy to just show up and play.
Finally, Dale Eby is one of my lifelong friends and we share everything. I have been playing baseball alongside Dale since around 1995 and still play with him today. We continue to be roommates on the road and have done that for many years. We have also taken family vacations together. He is my baseball buddy, both on and off the field.”
Any advice to whoever may be reading this?
“There is a competitive level in MSBL for every player out there. You may not have played ball since Little League but that doesn’t matter. There is a division for your level of skill. You don’t have to catch up to a 90 MPH fastball to play. Just go play. When you reach a certain age, your skills naturally start to dimmish but everyone you are playing against is experiencing the same thing. You are all baseball brothers. That’s what’s so nice. If you love baseball, come play the game.
A lot of guys talk about their stats. I don’t keep them. The only stat I would really like to see is how many buckets I could fill from the dirt I have accumulated over the years from my uniforms!”