MSBL World Series 2021 Team Profile: Motor City Firebirds

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communictions

Mike Juliano is the long-standing league president of the Detroit MSBL and also the architect of the successful MSBL World Series entry, Motor City Firebirds.  Created in the late 1990’s and originally known as the Orioles, the Firebirds came into existence by name in 2017 when Mike took over and sought out a new identity that wasn’t another replica of a Major League team.  This year they will be entered into the 55+, 60+ and hopefully the Father/Son divisions.

“I have been a part of the Orioles for many years and have been involved somewhat as a player but mostly as an organizer and first base coach,” said Juliano.  “In 2017 I was asked to take over the Orioles and I agreed but the first thing we were going to do was change the team name to something more reflective of our area.  Motor City was the perfect fit for a team from Detroit and the Firebirds of course came from the Pontiac Firebird.”

Mike is switching gears a little this year at the World Series, as he has decided to get in a little more playing time with his friend Ted Polito and the Inland Angels of the 65’s in Arizona in week two and only manage the 60+ Firebirds in week three, along with the Father/Son Firebirds entry if they can stoke enough interest. 

Rich Cleve, Joe Bottorff, and Bob Hoffman will be running the 55+ Firebirds and I will still handle the 60’s and Father/Son editions.  Getting enough dads is always the toughest part so we’ll just have to see how that plays out.”

Rick Green handles the actual game managing duties and I am more of the organizer.  He is a Michigan High School Hall of Fame coach and knows more about coaching than I could ever know and has been doing it for 30 years.  One of our pitchers, Rick Arbogast, is a baseball coach in Arizona and handles our pitching staff.  I just enjoy watching the guys succeed, more-so than always having to play.  I just leave them alone!”

The Firebirds made it to the 2020 MSBL World Series 60+ championship game last year in the Cactus division but lost the game to the AZ/CT United team.  They are hoping that a little deeper roster will get them to the top. 

“We were a little banged up but everyone goes through that. Last year our best player was lost because his son got covid so they had to stay home and our catcher broke his wrist in a freak accident.  We also lost starting pitchers right and left and then two days into the tournament we lost someone who had to get back home.  

I’m very proud of what everyone did last year to pull together.  One bright spot, however, is that we pulled off a triple play!”

One thing that makes Mike proud of his Firebirds is the complete connection to Detroit.

“All of our players are either playing in the Detroit MSBL or have a history of playing in our league.  That’s very special.  We don’t have to fly in 30 players from all across the country to be competitive and we also have fun renewing acquaintances.  Last year because of covid we had to pick up a couple of players from Arizona but that was an issue with many teams.  We definitely want to win but we don’t want to lose our identity to do it.”

Though the Firebirds remain without a championship, they are always in the hunt.  The 2021 editions sound tougher than ever.

“Our best chance came a couple of years ago when we faced Gary Stonebrook and Sacramento in the big game and lost 4-3.  We haven’t forgotten that game as well as last year’s championship game.  We are just one or two bounces away from being at the top.”