By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Have you ever thought what it would be like to play on the MSBL World Series spring training fields and stadiums all year long? That’s easy. Just move to the Phoenix area and join the Arizona MSBL, established in 1989 and running smoothly under the leadership of league president Joe O’brien. They are a 12-month machine that enjoys the combination of warmer, if not hot, weather and multiple major league organizations who are willing to negotiate contracts with the Arizona MSBL for field rights.
“We usually begin May 1st and run through the end of September and then give way to some rest and preparation for our players participating in the MSBL World Series in October,” stated O’Brien. “Then we pick it up the first week of December for our winter session that runs through the end of April. We take full advantage of the ability to play down here all year long.”
Joe anticipates a full season this year with about 50 teams participating in 18+, 35+, 45+ and 60+ divisions.
“We were still able to get in 15 games plus playoffs during 2020. We were very fortunate to get that done. I am very proud of our being able to get in a successful 2020 season with covid-19 lurking while being able to provide a welcome outlet for our players and their families”
Joe began playing in the AZMSBL in 2007 and took over at the helm from co-presidents Lou McAnany and John Silingo in the 2018-2019 season. I asked Joe what were his biggest challenges when he took over as president and what challenges he face today.
“Fields, fields and fields,” emphasized O’Brien. “We have to negotiate with a lot of different organizations to secure our fields and they are always subject to changing. We have also added our online waiver platform, which was a challenge. But just like most leagues across the country, fields are always the top priority.”
Joe continues to play in the league as a member of the 35+ Mariners and the 45+ Giants so he gets a front row seat to watch the league perform as promised from a player’s perspective
“Without the help of our board members we would have real problems. They are essential in securing our community relations across the desert and are helpful to our teams looking to enroll in MSBL tournaments, such as the World Series, Palm Springs and the two Vegas tournaments. I really enjoy watching our championship games every year and the board members make sure they all go off without a hitch.”
I asked Joe what he thought the reason was for the continued success of this 32-year-old league.
“The commitment of our players, coaches and board members all working together to make sure everything runs at the highest caliber. Our family support has also been there for all of us. Without the family atmosphere and support we couldn’t accomplish what we do.”
Joe obviously gains the envy of other league presidents across the country who are playing on high school JV fields as many of those presidents are new to their post or they are heading up brand new MSBL leagues. Do you have any advice for these folks?
“Surround yourself with good people. Don’t try to go it alone. Explain your visions openly, pay your umpires well and let them know how much you appreciate them, take care of your fields and be gracious to those who help you with field preparations. Also, you will get bombarded with all sorts of recommendations and of course some complaints. Don’t be afraid to say no. They’ll still respect you for your stand.”