MSBL League Profile: Central North Carolina MSBL, Rob Isbell, League President

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

Rob Isbell has been the League President of the Central North Carolina Men’s Senior Baseball League since 2017, after joining up in 2008.  They currently offer competition in four divisions, 18+, 32+, 50+, and 60+.

“As we age, I see the older divisions adding teams and the league growing as a whole,” explained Rob.  “I also see the local recreation departments adding men’s baseball leagues to their programs one day.”

We wanted to know more about Rob and the history of this wonderful league so we sent him a few questions to fill in the blanks.  Following are Rob’s responses.  Enjoy!  

League name: CNCMSBL (Central North Carolina Men’s Senior Baseball League)

Your name: Rob Isbell

2022 Raleigh Oaks win at Central North Carolina MSBLWhat is the history of the league and how did it start? From what I’ve been able to gather, this league began in 1988 and went through a couple of different organizations before settling in on the MSBL franchise.

What age divisions of play are now offered? We currently have 4 age divisions: 18+, 32+, 50+, and 60+.

How many teams are anticipated this year? The CNCMSBL will have 27 teams scattered across the four age divisions in 2024.

When does the league begin play and when will it finish, including any playoffs? The CNCMSBL will begin play the first weekend in April and conclude the regular season at the end of August. Playoffs will begin the weekend following Labor Day. There are a couple of exceptions; the 32+ division voted to play a shorter season and finish their playoffs prior to Labor Day.

The 60+ division has decided to play a two-part season, thus taking off the heat of the summer for a couple of months and picking back up for a fall season. We tried that approach last year and it worked well. The older guys seem to appreciate a break from the mid-summer heat.

When did you personally start playing in the league? I began as a player in the CNCMSBL in 2008 after a college teammate told me about the Atlanta league, raising my curiosity. I went on a search and found that we had an MSBL franchise here in central North Carolina.

What is your personal baseball playing history? I played two years of community college baseball in Alabama and a third year at a small college in Kansas. Three years of baseball but not close to a degree. Then I woke up one day in boot camp and started growing up. While stationed in Connecticut in the Navy, I helped coach a local high school team for three years just to stay close to the game.

When did you become president? I became president of the CNCMSBL in 2017 after the previous president retired. No one wanted the job, so I took it. Now I can’t get rid of it.

Who were your predecessors and are they still involved in any capacity? None of the previous league presidents are currently in the league so research has been challenging. From what I can find out:

  • Wayne Erskin helped found the league back in 1988 and stayed affiliated through 1993.
  • Mac McDaniel took over the league duties in 1994 through 2003 and was an active coach in the league until a couple of years ago. Mac was a good source of information on the history of the league and a valuable partner in league development over the years.
  • Glenn Garrison was president from 2004-2008.
  • Mike Wilson was president from 2009-2016. Mike was a big help in the transition to me and a huge asset to the league and a wealth of baseball knowledge. Mike has also managed many tournament teams from our league and won several MSBL Fall Classics in Florida.

What is your most memorable MSBL moment as a president or a player? Too many to count, but probably as a player with our tournament team (Raleigh Braves-Managed by Dave Halley from our league). My first two trips to Arizona to play in and win the World Series in back-to-back trips (2017-2018).

What challenges did you face when you started the league or when you took over? Probably the most challenging times were during the initial year when we decided to develop a board of directors and establish the league as a non-profit organization. Lots of questions from all directions setting that up and coming up with a plan to maintain the organization more professionally.

Expanding our league to a 50+ division was a big step forward. We’ve recently further expanded to include a 60+ “Classic” division. Much help with the development of the Classic league was received from John Plachetka and Andy Darroch.

What are your biggest challenges today? It’s becoming tough to get fields. Most of the fields here tend to be rented through the towns or municipalities and they have no incentive to make the fields available for anyone other than their recreation departments. It’s so important to get a good relationship with a school and do whatever is necessary to maintain that relationship.

I tend to take it personally when things out of my control go wrong and a team doesn’t have a field or umpires fail to show up or any of the other uncertainties unfold. Those things bother me greatly and I try to help where I can.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction? It’s pretty satisfying when the schedule is complete and we have a successful opening day.

What do you see for the league in the future? As we age, I see the older divisions adding teams and the league growing as a whole. I also see the local recreation departments adding men’s baseball leagues to their programs one day.

After a near miss last year (guy having a heart attack during a game) we sought out and received donations in order to purchase a couple of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). So currently I have two AED’s that we intend to have present at our older division games. The goal is to have an AED at each game one day but it’s a little cost-prohibitive without donations. But we’re proud to have made that decision and hope we never need them.

What is the reason for the continued success of the league? I believe we’re successful because we offer an alternative for guys to get back into the game that they fell in love with as a child. We get a lot of looks and interest from guys when they see adult men taking batting practice in the cages. Many times guys will ask questions about the league. We always have more guys come to player assessments than we can put on teams. We’re capped by fields and people available to manage.

What part of running the league do you enjoy most? It’s pretty nice when Sunday night rolls around and I haven’t had a phone call or a complaint or protest. It’s nice to look at our website (shout out to Phil Buckley – Web Master) and see how the teams are doing or read a new baseball article from Phil. Visit our site and read some of the articles posted by Phil at

Do you still play in the league? Yeah, I try to stay busy and play on the 32+ Premier Braves, play and manage on the 50+ Senators and also play on the 60+ Classic Braves.

What is the history of your league team’s participation in any MSBL national tournaments? Another proud segment of the CNCMSBL is our record with National Tournaments. As I mentioned earlier the teams managed by Mike Wilson won several Florida Fall Classics (Raleigh Red Sox) pre-2016.

The Raleigh Braves (managed by Dave Halley) won the 2012 Fall Classic and a couple of MSBL Memorial Day tournaments in Atlanta. We have also had a great run in Arizona winning the 2014 MSBL World Series and back-to-back WS in 2017-2018.

The CNCMSBL has also been represented well by a new tournament team (Carolina Cobras) from our league with the help of Bobby Lovett. The Cobras have participated in Arizona for the past couple of years with growing success.

We are currently working on developing a 60+ tournament team that we expect to be competitive on a national level in the near future, thanks to long time MSBL player and manager Pat Ferrick.

What would you say are the most important accomplishments in your league? It’s great to see our league participate strongly with other teams on a national level and at various venues across the country. It was also pretty cool to see our league remain strong during the COVID days even when many were dropping out and saying we were crazy for continuing to play. We survived and are now stronger than ever.

How valuable is your relationship with MSBL? I feel like I have a great working relationship with the MSBL and enjoy the calls and messages and insights from the home office. We get great support on all fronts concerning insurance and other benefits from the league. 

What advice would you give to new league presidents? To be successful in anything, you need to surround yourself with good, competent folks. I have a great network of guys in the league that all are capable of giving good counsel and will do anything the league needs. Don’t be afraid to delegate when you can. It has worked well for me and the CNCMSBL.

How important is family support? I’ve been very fortunate to have a great wife (Wendy) who supports me and allows me to have league-related paperwork strewn in every room of the house. But Wendy has shared this baseball journey with me for 33 years now and has certainly made it much more enjoyable.

Together we’ve raised three great kids and now are enjoying our first granddaughter. We’ve watched our three kids play baseball/softball their entire lives and have truly cherished the experiences. So, I have a great family, health, and still get to enjoy the game I’ve loved my entire life. I guess I have it all.