By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
The Columbus (OH) Men’s Baseball League starts their 32nd season in 2020 smack in the middle of Buckeye country, having started in 1989 with a modest six team schedule and founded by Rod Davis. The CMBL is currently under the leadership of MSBL National Hall of Fame member Rick Fryman, a post he has held since 2013.
“I started in the league in 2000 when the league was run by Jim Durham,” explained Fryman. “He has been a tremendous influence to me and helped a lot in getting us to the level we enjoy today. He doesn’t play too many games anymore but he is always there for advice. We hope to be enrolling 17 or 18 teams in 2020 with 25+, 35+ and 45+ divisions.”
Rick mentioned that one of the biggest challenges he faces is maintaining momentum within the younger divisions and attracting new 25 to 34-year old players. “Our league is solid and I see growth in the 35+ and 45+ divisions, but we need to buckle down and bring in the 25-year old’s to keep things balanced.”
When asked what he felt was the most important reason the league has succeeded for over 30 years, Rick was quick to deflect any personal accolades. “We first need to thank Jim Durham, who was League President for 20+ years before I became President,” explained Fryman. “We worked very well together, as I was also League Secretary for five years while he was President. We are also no better than our good team managers and trustees. Nobody can run a league alone. You must have a solid and dedicated core.”
Another challenge, not unlike any other MSBL league across the country, is hunting down quality fields to enhance the player’s experience. “We have long standing relationships with many quality high school fields and also the use of Huntington Park, home of the minor league Columbus Clippers. Our players are able to enjoy a quality experience as they get away for a few hours to escape from their busy week.”
Rick is by no means a pencil pushing monarch sitting on his throne and telling the troops what to do. Still in his early 50’s, you will find him more often than not down there in the dirt catching or coaching for his beloved Pirates of the busy 25-over division. His Pirates also cross the country heading to various MSBL national tournaments.
“I caught for many years but those days are over. I play first base now but still strap on the tools once in a while to stay involved. In 2018 we made it to the MSBL World Series in Arizona and then went to Florida in 2019 to take part in the Fall Classic. We have taken the Pirates to multiple World Series and Fall Classics and will be heading back to the World Series in 2020. I received my MSBL National Hall of Fame trophy from Steve Sigler in 2018 while at the World Series. That was my most memorable moment as an MSBL league president.”
Any final words? “Steve and Brian Sigler give us the tools to run a successful league and that relationship is invaluable. You also need your family’s support and hopefully have them understand that you still want to play baseball and how important it is to you. I have witnessed many players stop playing because they didn’t have that support.”
Here is a quote from Rick’s 2018 Hall of Fame story, when asked for advice that may be beneficial to other league presidents. “Stick to the bylaws and let them know there is a structure and implement it. Be in charge. Yes, there are always special circumstances but the players want to know someone is in charge so that all they worry about is playing ball. Give them that opportunity and gladly accept the responsibility.”
I guess you could frame that as a formula for success in determining if your league is going to make it to the prestigious 32-year threshold. Well said, Rick.