MSBL League Profile: MSBL/MABL of Southern California, Jefrey R. Brown, League President

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

The MSBL/MABL of Southern California has been an integral part of the MSBL family since 1987 and also possesses an enviable history of national tournament participation and the hardware to prove it.  We wanted to explore the history of the league and find out a little more about its leader, Jef Brown.

Please enjoy Jef’s highly thought-out Q&A that we are pleased to share below.

2022 Team USA Goes Back to Back in SoCal MSBLWhat is the history of the league and how did it start? – The league started in 1987, and Dennis Swartout was the League President until 2018.  Since its inception, the league has attracted teams and players from all over the Southern California area.  In 2018, when I became the League President, we focused on growing the league, and making it one of the best, if not the best Adult Baseball leagues in Southern California.  We have built the brand into a respected name, using the best fields, and attracting some of the best teams and competition around.  We have had multiple teams from the Sun Devils, Snappers, Blue Jays, OC Sox, Team Victory, Monarchs, the OC Dodgers and more, who frequently compete in the MSBL National tournaments and who have won multiple Championships in the World Series and other tournaments.

What age divisions of play are now offered? – We’ve continued to expand and this year we added for the first time a 50+ Division, giving us teams in our 18+, 40+ and now 50+ Divisions, and we look forward to adding even more divisions and quality teams in the future.

How many teams are anticipated this year? – We’ve grown the league since 2018, to 18 teams this year.  We plan to expand to 30 teams over the next year or so.

When does the league begin play and when will it finish, including any playoffs? – We start the last Sunday of March, and our season runs through the end of September, finishing up just in time for teams to participate in the MSBL World Series.

When did you personally start playing in the league? – I joined SoCal MSBL in 1995, coming over from another league that is now defunct.  Back then, we were the SoCal Angels, and over the years, the team’s name has changed, and we are now the OC Dodgers.  It’s been nearly 30 years since I started and I can’t believe how quickly time has passed since then.

What is your personal baseball playing history? – I managed the SoCal Angels from the beginning and back then, I was our starting second baseman and I really enjoyed playing against top-level competition.  I’ve been able to lead our team to 11 League Championships, and we’ve competed every year with 12 Semi-Final appearances as well.  It’s been a tremendous experience, and I hope to continue to lead our OC Dodgers for many years to come.

When did you become president? – I became the League President at the end of 2018 when our former President stepped down after a nearly 30-year tenure.

Who were your predecessors and are they still involved in any capacity? – Dennis Swartout was my predecessor, and he is no longer involved in the league.

What is your most memorable MSBL moment as a president or a player? – My most memorable moment was when my OC Dodgers team faced Santa Ana Senators, who were favored to win the tournament, in a Semi-Final game in the Las Vegas Kickoff Classic.  We went into that game, depleted due to injuries, and our starting pitcher, Nathan Jack (Cowboy), had pitched in 4 straight games at that point.  Early on we were trailing 5-0, and facing a phenomenal pitcher, Dave Morrow, who was lights out, but our team battled and chipped away at the lead.  In the eighth inning, trailing 8-6 with runners on 2nd and 3rd, I had to pinch hit for Nathan Jack, who took a foul ball off his foot the inning prior and he was unable to bat.  So, I came off the bench, facing another outstanding pitcher, Albert Higgs, and anticipating that he would throw a first-pitch fastball to get ahead in the count, I took my best swing and drove the ball to the left-center field gap to score both runs to tie the game.  It was an amazing experience, as our OC Dodgers team went undefeated, 7-0 in the tournament and won the Championship!  I’ve been involved with many outstanding teams over the years, but the grit and determination that our team played with, facing incredible odds to win the tournament was absolutely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in MSBL!

What challenges did you face when you started the league or when you took over? – When I took over as League President, the number of teams in our league had dwindled down to only 7 teams, and we had some culture and image issues to overcome, but through communication, dedication and some hard work building back the relationships with teams, and the local field authorities, we’ve been blessed to grow the league back to where it is today!  One of the things that I stress in all my communications is that this league is “your league”, and that teams, managers and players should be proud of this league, and they should enjoy playing.  Rather than a top-down approach, I believe that every player has a stake in the league, and a responsibility to make it the best league around.  We’ve accomplished some great things by including everyone as a stakeholder in the future of this league and taking pride in how we play, and what we do, and by eliminating the negative.  Although it’s been challenging, we’ve overcome the culture issues, and really turned things around.

What are your biggest challenges today? – The biggest challenges we face are really two-fold; We constantly face field issues, as travel ball and other leagues have sprung up over the past few years, we’ve found it more and more difficult to obtain fields because the City and School District field authorities have rules in place that favor the travel ball leagues having first priority.  With that said, because of the growing competition for fields, the costs have also continued to rise each year.  The City and School District fields are continuing to raise the cost of utilizing fields and if the trend continues, the cost may be extremely prohibitive in years to come.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction? – The greatest satisfaction that I get is when we have our All-Star game each year.  We’ve traditionally held the All-Star event on Father’s Day, and it’s amazing that all of the families come out to the game.  Having the parents of players, children and families join us and participate in this event gives me great satisfaction.  I can’t think of a better experience, when everyone comes out to cheer on their husband, son, father, etc.  The atmosphere during the event is extremely fun, and the players have a great time and to me, that is what baseball is all about!

What do you see for the league in the future? – I see our league continuing to grow and expand the league to offer more options, to more players.  We are considering adding a rookie league, for players who haven’t had the opportunity to play organized baseball before, or maybe not since High School, to attract more teams and players, so they can experience what it is like to play baseball at this level.  Additionally, we’d like to add more divisions and have teams in 18+, 25+, 35+, 45+, and 55+ and that is the focus for the future.

What is the reason for the continued success of the league? – I think the league’s success is due to the teams, managers, and players that make this league what it is today.  Additionally, our success comes from many dedicated people behind the scenes, like our Board of Directors, and others who do all of the little things that need to be done to ensure that we have the fields, umpires, baseballs, trophies, and support for the events that we put on every year.  I couldn’t have a better group of people helping the league to achieve the success that we’ve had.  They are amazing!

What part of running the league do you enjoy most? – Frankly, what I enjoy most is being able to interact with all of our teams, managers, and players and to get their feedback on how we are doing.  In fact, I had a manager call me over the weekend, to tell me that they couldn’t wait for the new season because playing in SoCal MSBL is the best experience that they’ve had and that he felt that our league is the best league in Southern California.  He told me that we he thought that the Board and I do a fantastic job running the league, and that compared to some of the leagues that have popped up over the last few years, we are head and shoulders above the other leagues.  We don’t hear that often enough, but it is great to hear that kind of feedback, as we strive to continue growing and improving the league.

Do you still play in the league? – Yes, I still play in the league, and I hope to continue for years to come.  I don’t play in games as much as I used to, but I still take a couple of at-bats, and play 3 or 4 innings on defense.  I love the game, and I will always compete, for as long as my body and health allow me to!

What is the history of your league team’s participation in any MSBL national tournaments?  – The Sun Devils, Snappers, Blue Jays, OC Sox, Team Victory, Monarchs, Angels, the OC Dodgers, and many others have long participated in the MSBL National tournaments.  The teams have all won Championships in multiple tournaments, including the World Series.  We have so many talented teams in this league and I’m proud to say that we’ve had many tournament Champions, and they are a testament to our consistent success.

What would you say are the most important accomplishments in your league? – The most important accomplishment in our league is that we’ve been able to build the league back to where it was back in its heyday.  Building the league, the relationships, and attracting teams from all over Southern California, has been a great accomplishment and we couldn’t have done it without the fantastic teams, managers, and players that we have in our league.  It’s really a community of baseball players that love to play the game.  My hope is that when I retire, I will leave behind a league that is in better shape than when I became President; a legacy for the new teams and players that will play in SoCal MSBL in the future.

How valuable is your relationship with MSBL? – I think the relationship with MSBL has been invaluable in so many ways.  Steve really takes an interest in the league and has been instrumental in helping us build the league in many ways.  We appreciate MSBL and all that they do, to help us continue to bring Adult Baseball to Southern California.

What advice would you give to new league presidents?  – My advice would be to run the league with integrity, honesty and take a keen interest in each and every team, manager and player.  Communication is a key to the success of any league, and keeping the door open for feedback, and the willingness to make changes that will benefit everyone.  Additionally, surrounding yourself with others, that are also keenly interested in maintaining and making the league better and better is paramount to the success of anyone taking on the role of President of the league.

How important is family support? – In my personal experience, I can’t even begin to express how important family support is to me personally and to the teams, managers, and players in this league.  Running a league takes a lot of work, outside our day jobs, to ensure that we can deliver an outstanding experience for every single player in the league, and I could never have been able to accomplish the success that we’ve achieved, without the dedication and support of my wife.  At times, I know she feels like I don’t spend enough time doing other things, but she has always been my biggest supporter.  She listens when I need to vent, and gives suggestions that are helpful, but moreover, she shows up to our games and cares about what we are doing, she gets involved in our events, helps to set things up and she understands when I have to put in extra work to get things done.  Her support has been invaluable for me, and for the support that she’s given me, I can’t thank her enough!