By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
As we continue our League President Spotlight series, we now introduce the Grand Daddy of MSBL. Larry Lombardi of the DCMSBL has been the league president or commissioner for 35 years and leads the pack in the category of longevity, other than the original Long Island MSBL as founded by Steve Sigler, of course. Larry has been inducted into the 1997 MSBL National Hall of Fame and was the recipient of the MSBL Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, and has also supplied us with a DCMSBL League Profile for the website. Larry has been featured in many stories throughout the years but our Q/A format provides a new twist for our readers. Below are Larry’s responses to some newer and thought-provoking topics.
What inspired you to become involved in MSBL at the beginning? It was just like a lot of guys back then. You play baseball your entire life and suddenly the only alternative was softball. The initial Sports Illustrated article with Steve Sigler really touched the nerve of becoming involved. It was a 30-and-over format back then and I was 35 at the time. I had a degree in Parks and Recreation and had set up leagues and tournaments when working in that industry so becoming involved in organizing a league in the MSBL was a natural attraction.
What drove you to want to become League President? Let’s just say I wasn’t driven by desire as much as driven to take over. My involvement was by default and out of necessity. There was another guy, whom I won’t mention by name, that I partnered with to start the league. For no particular reason, he took the name of President and I was the Commissioner. The only problem is that he just wanted a place to play but ended up running the ship. It wasn’t much of a partnership.
We had an advisory board and they realized who was doing the work, plus the other guy had a very abrasive personality and was sort of a troublemaker and didn’t project a very positive picture of the league. After two years the board voted him out of the league and said ‘Here, Larry. Thanks in advance!’ The league started in the late 80s’ and even though I was commissioner for the first two years and not league president by name, I was in charge of everything.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned through your years as League President? A big lesson was to make sure to get all of the facts first before making a decision. Don’t jump to conclusions. Be open to new ideas and get advice from trusted people in the league. Never take a comment or an issue personally because you’re never going to satisfy everyone. Be transparent and be able to show in your actions that you’re fair.
What advice can you offer first-year League Presidents? Get a board of trusted managers to make a lot of the decisions so you are not the only guy out there. Five managers are on our board so I would say have from three to five trusted people on the board to field the issues or complaints and merely keep you informed. Don’t try to do it alone. You will burn out quickly. Delegation of authority is crucial. Assign your people things to achieve and feel good about and let them do it. Lastly, be careful not to have any conflict of interest if you’re playing or managing. Don’t favor your own team regarding the best players, best fields, or anything that gives other teams reason to think favoritism.
Do you have any special experiences, remarks, or fond memories? My special experiences and memories don’t revolve around one specific event or play. It’s the friendships made and maintained both in the league and at national tournaments. While playing baseball, and even now, I have been thanked for providing the opportunity to them to keep playing and living out their dreams. That happens to be my personal viewpoint and am always happy to share. It is priceless.
Regarding a special event, there is one that sticks out. One year we played against a couple of ex-pros from Detroit, including Ron LeFlore in the outfield. That was special.
How valuable to you and your league has MSBL National affiliation been? MSBL provides the format for teams to have the ability to go out to the tournaments and see their friends year after year. It’s a national extension of the league friendships that were also created. I call Steve Sigler a friend of mine and have known him for a long time and was on the first national board. I have a great deal of respect for him having created something that is still vital after all of these years. He is a bright light against the darkness that can be out there. I have enjoyed his affiliation and want to give Steve all the credit.
MSBL has affected well over a hundred thousand guys who have come through the leagues and tournaments all these years. I’d like to say that MSBL is a reflection of life and what baseball is all about. It teaches you to be selfless. It supplies lessons of life that carry on into your day.
What inspires you, today, to continue in your leadership role? As I have gotten older I put my faith in God and always look for wisdom and understanding and look at it as ‘What things can I do to help the members in this league?’ That keeps me going because I think I can still make a difference. It all comes from a strength in God and I enjoy helping people on and off the field.
We’re all flawed individuals so maybe I can help. I want to continue the legacy of MSBL in a positive way. I truly like providing the enjoyment of baseball and giving people an opportunity to play. It’s not about me. It is more a question of ‘What can I do to impact people in the community?’ I think it is by providing a place to play baseball. Even in dealing with someone who has a complaint or an issue, I try to at least validate them as an individual with a kind word coming back and being compassionate. Just making a slight difference is what keeps me going.