By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
As part of our 2023 continuing coverage of a handful of our nationwide league presidents who have been a pivotal part of the MSBL organization for many years, we have traveled down south to profile our next edition.
Rich Merkel is the man behind the eight-team, Central Alabama Baseball Association located in and around Birmingham, Alabama, a post he has embraced for the past 15 years. We caught up with Rich and asked him to be a part of our ‘Q&A’ profile and he was happy to oblige. Below are Rich’s thoughts about what it takes to be successful in such an important position.
What inspired you to become involved in MSBL at the beginning? I had just moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Birmingham, Alabama and a guy in my office had mentioned adult baseball. I started playing and pitching 30 years ago, I would say it is addicting.
What drove you to want to become League President? We were having concerns over the leadership and the coaches asked me if I would run the league so I did. I wanted to insure we had a competitive league, that was run fairly with great fields and continued to grow.
What are some of the most valuable lessons you have learned through your years as League President? One thing that is important is to communicate with all the coaches and the head umpire. As things come up, we discuss and vote on them to insure everyone has a voice. The other lesson I have learned is to listen to players and continue to look for ways we can improve and grow.
What advice can you offer first-year League Presidents? Communicate openly, treat every team the same, and find good leaders/coaches that are dependable.
Do you have any special experiences, remarks, or fond memories? There are far too many to list here, but I have many lifelong friends due to playing baseball and that’s probably what I will remember most. A few years ago, when Major League Baseball was suspended, we got to play at Regions Park, the minor league affiliate of the Chicago White Sox (Birmingham Barons). My grandson Zach even caught one of my foul balls there!
Every team in our league got to play at least two games and we got to be big leaguers for the night! Most had never gotten to play on a field this nice!
How valuable to you and your league has MSBL National affiliation been? MSBL has always been very supportive and helpful. We have a number of guys in our league that has traveled to national tournaments. The MSBL affiliation I think is a key to our success.
What inspires you, today, to continue in your leadership role? I enjoy the camaraderie of the other coaches and players in the league. I have done this for a long time so I have the process down pat, but I am always looking for ways for us to improve and grow.