By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
68-year-old Wayne Baker is a humble guy and a 30-year member of the South Jersey MSBL. He has avoided the spotlight for decades and it took some coaxing by friends and teammates to convince him to spend a few minutes with me so that we can get his story out there for all of MSBL to enjoy.
“They told me that a story would be good promotion for the league,” said Baker. “But I enjoy my role as being a ‘behind the scenes’ helper and not on the board or anything. I enjoy helping Lou (League President Lou Marshall). I was on the board many years ago early on but that’s not for me anymore.”
How many years defines ‘many years ago?’
“I started in the league in 1992 by answering an ad in the paper. I knew a lot of media people and was helpful in recruiting players and teams so I guess I was part of the grassroots a little bit. I was happy to pass along what I could but I didn’t want any credit for it so I just stepped back.”
By now you may be wondering about the title of this article including ‘Rock and Roll’. There is another side to this manager of the Gloucester Phillies in the 55-over division in South Jersey.
“I am the fan club president of the band ‘Get the Led Out’, which is a tribute band to Led Zeppelin. We have about 3,000 members. They are fantastic and really nail it. Some of us are traveling to beautiful Red Rocks in Colorado in September to see them. If you can, go see them somewhere. You won’t be sorry!”
Regarding milestones, a couple of years ago Wayne celebrated his 300th win as a manager in the league. In typical Wayne fashion, he said the recognition is for the team, not him. Up until 12 or 13 years ago, Wayne played more but health has dictated his path of late so he continues to feed his baseball passion by managing.
“The team got the 300th win, not Wayne Baker.”
“Last July I almost died,” continued Baker. “After a couple of home games, I didn’t feel very well. I got really sick and had the shakes. I decided to get admitted and found that I had a kidney infection that was shutting my body down. So, I had the surgery and they kept me alive. I remember the doctor gave me a clipboard at 4:00 am and said that if I didn’t sign off on the surgery I’d be visiting all of my family members who have passed away. I signed the paperwork and am now a proud member of the zipper club!”
Wayne said that to the best of his knowledge, there are only two or maybe three members who have been in the league as long as he has. Wayne was pondering retiring from the league about five years ago but League President Lou Marshall convinced him to stay and remain a part of the fabric of the league.
“Wayne is a very supportive manager of all league activities,” added Marshall. “He is a stalwart in the 55 plus division. He’s constantly revamping his teams and keeping them competitive. He is a manager and player who cares very much about the league and is very cooperative!”
I asked Wayne about his involvement in any MSBL national tournaments.
“Our team in New Jersey has a lot of members who are doctors, lawyers, and other professionals and they can’t get off. We have gone to the Holiday Classic in Florida going all the way back to Walt Disney World because it is only a few days and the guys can get off. The Fall Classic is just too extensive to pull off. We hope to get to Vegas one of these days for the Kickoff Classic or Las Vegas Open. I want to step back from managing but nobody wants the stress of managing. I don’t blame them!”
They do have a Holiday Classic championship under their belts. They won in 2008, after starting to go down to Florida in 2004.
“We have gone almost every year since 2004 and played just this past year. We went 2-2 and got smoked in the playoffs but I tell the guys to have fun. Our team isn’t assembled to win at all costs. It’s always fun to get away and play some ball during those nasty months in Jersey.”
Wayne mentioned that he has worked with other league presidents in New Jersey but Lou Marshall is the glue that keeps things together.
“Lou has been in that position I think for the past 10 or 12 years. Sure, he gets hammered now and again by players and managers but he always keeps his cool and I have never seen him upset or talking back. He has done an incredible job in his position and is the reason we are as strong as we are and why we’ve been around so long.”
Are there any special moments or associations that stick out from your 30 years in the league?
“Well, it may not be an ‘on-field’ accomplishment but I have always stayed in touch with a former player, Scott Palmer, who has gone from a local television personality to now being in the public relations department for the Phillies. He goes out of his way to help kids and fathers, and to get baseballs to sick kids. He was there to get tickets for a guy who had cancer. He’ll arrange for games for various causes and for them to see the game in the owner’s box and all sorts of things for people over the past 30 years. Those are the important things I take away from my baseball contacts from the league.”
Any final thoughts from three decades of being around our great game in New Jersey?
“I have no better pleasure than seeing some of the marginal players succeed. That’s why I keep doing this. My philosophy is ‘You paid, you’re playing.’ Just last week a team member got his very first hit and I got the game ball for him and had everybody sign it. That’s the best part of all of this.
I value the friendships and the people who have played for me over the years. I hope I made a few good friends and very few enemies. I ask everyone to try to remember three important things as they go forward: Family, job, and team. That’s the recipe for happiness.”