By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
John Linden is the League President of the Mid-Iowa Baseball League, located in and around Des Moines, Iowa. The league began their MSBL affiliation in 1994 and John has been at the helm for the past 15 years. John is also a member of the MSBL National Hall of Fame (2012), MSBL Honor Roll (2015), and was selected by MSBL Founder and President Steve Sigler for the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.
As part of our League President Spotlight series, John was kind enough to share some insight that has made him a force within the MSBL nation of players, managers, and league presidents. Please enjoy John’s answers to our questions below.
What inspired you to become involved in MSBL at the beginning? I was playing fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball and had no idea there was a hardball league in the area. I instantly made the switch to hardball when I had the opportunity to join a team.
What drove you to want to become League President? I had been involved on the board for several years and was a divisional President and our current League President, Brian Schueller, became a dad (x2) and had work changes and didn’t feel he had the commitment time to dedicate to the league (although he stayed on as webmaster and League VP he still was and is still heavily involved)
What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned through your years as League President? First and foremost, you need to establish great relationships with field/venue owners. We cannot play the game without the facilities. I feel that it is important to surround yourself with dedicated leadership on your board. And be sure to have most teams represented. Having input from all age groups, and all success levels helps keep a balance when it comes time to draft or modify rules. By having that diversity, you create pragmatic decisions that will not benefit any age group or skill/success level within your organization. Second, you need a reliable umpire core.
What advice can you offer first-year League Presidents? If you do not have a board, establish one right away. Create diversity with your board members as mentioned above. It’s good to have differing opinions. Change and growth happen when differing views get together and establish a new direction. Sometimes, you may have a target on your back but trust that with a diverse board, decisions are made for the good of the league, not for one division or team. Focus on growing the league, encouraging participation rather than hindering it. Be flexible.
Do you have any special experiences, remarks, or fond memories? This is my 27th year in the league. Last year I played in the 18+, 30+, 40+, and 48+ divisions and have played in well over 1,000 MSBL games. I would need several pages to share all the special experiences. I’m blessed to play ball on the same field as my son, Tanner, on the 18+, 30+, and traveling teams. It’s great to see my wife Nancy, daughter Kristina, son-in-law Jake, daughter-in-law Kelsi and grandchildren Karter and Wyatt at the Sunday doubleheaders.
However, a special thought I would like to mention is that baseball has been a part of my life since I went to my first MLB game as a two-year-old. Adult baseball has been a part of me for over 40% of my lifetime. My teammates are not just teammates. They are my baseball family. The old saying that “Baseball is Life” couldn’t resonate more with me and with my teammates and for that matter, several of my long-term opponents too. We have our own baseball fraternity. We have shared family outings, watched our families have kids, and celebrated graduations and weddings. And, unfortunately, we have gone to teammates’ or teammates’ families’ funerals. We picnic together, vacation together, and barnstorm together around the country at MSBL regional and national tourneys.
How valuable to you and your league has MSBL National affiliation been? I think that each and every one of us that have been affiliated with Mid-Iowa Baseball and MSBL has been blessed to play the game we all love. Baseball is a game of statistics, but statistics only record a moment in time. What is timeless is the baseball family we have all experienced. For that, I, we, are grateful for Steve and his vision to have a place for all that are able, to continue to play the game we love. Baseball truly is Life.
What inspires you, today, to continue in your leadership role? Sustainability. Before I give the ball to another, I want to make sure we have solidified our field relationships and continue to develop and grow our age groups. We can’t have 30+/40+/48+ if we don’t grow our 18+. With 30 years under our belt thanks to past Presidents Tim Kirgan and Brian Schueller, we have already established a place for our kids to play baseball. I want to make sure we have a place not only for our kids but our grandchildren and their children, as well.