By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
47-year old Eddie Sapp is the rookie president of the Tucson MSBL due to the recent passing of longtime league president Kirk Jacobs. Founded in 1999 and kicking off their 2020 season on May 31st, the league is currently divided into 18+, 25+, 35+ and 45+ divisions, 33 teams and over 500 players. Mix in a coronavirus pandemic and it spells some rough seas for the new guy on the block but Eddie takes it all in stride.
“I also run a Little League program in Tucson that has 550 kids, and parents, so I am not unused to dealing with most any situation,” explained Sapp. “It has been a trying year for sure, but we managed to actually attract four new teams in the 18’s and one in the 35’s. That’s very satisfying. I have been playing here for 18 years so I’m not new to the league or what is expected.”
Eddie is a full-time player to go along with the duties of the league. He has been with the Tucson Durham Bulls in the 25-over division for 14 years, managing the team the last four.
“I play second base, though I usually play all over the place depending on what is needed that day. I used to also play in the 18-over division but it got to be too much while trying to run the Little League program while playing in two divisions. Now it would be literally impossible when you factor in running the MSBL program, too. I have all I can handle and would be lost without everyone who stepped up to help after Kirk’s passing. He left some big shoes to fill.”
How has it been working with the city and country officials in making sure that you are compliant with their covid regulations?
“It has been interesting in that we have fields both in the city and county and they have different sets of rules. The county states you have to wear masks from the parking lot to the field and no fans are allowed at the games. They enforce social distancing and there are also no handshakes or touching at all. We all signed a waiver so they know we are serious. Of course, we pledged that anyone who is feeling sick, for any reason, must stay home. They have officials at the gate and also walking around making sure everyone is compliant.
The city fields are different in that they haven’t opened them up yet for reservations so you just go and play, like sandlot ball when you hope nobody is there. We actually schedule our games at these fields, get there early and establish ‘squatter’s rights’ and stay on them for two entire games. The board has done an amazing job of getting there early putting in bases and prepping the fields. There hasn’t been a conflict yet. The city officials actually like the fact they are being used while seeing they are being cared for so everyone is happy.”
There are a couple more distinctions to supervising and playing in an MSBL league in Arizona. One is the heat in the summer and the other is the proximity to the MSBL World Series in the Phoenix area, a mere 107 mile jaunt up the interstate.
“Last Sunday it was 115 degrees at our game. That’s crazy. Also, we do send a few teams to the World Series and everybody looks forward to it. I haven’t gone the last couple of years but have been the runner-up five times. I won’t be able to play this year but maybe I can sneak a day out and get up there to root our guys on.”
Since this is a stacked deck, regarding taking over a league from a beloved president who passed away along with a world-wide pandemic, what were some of the biggest challenges of that?
“I found that this was a lot tougher than running a league comprised of kids! I was dealing with adult issues, which are more complex. It requires different strategies and I had to learn my new audience. I had played for a long time in the younger divisions but didn’t really know the players in the older divisions. It took a while but I think everyone appreciates what it took from the board to get our league back on the field. I think all is well.
I also implemented our communications to everyone and not just the managers. That eliminated a lot of potential misinformation or no information at all. I think the players appreciated becoming more involved and seeing the transparency. I try to communicate more as a president and less as a buddy.”
What gives you the greatest satisfaction as a president?
“This year it is just seeing the guys on the field. The board and I have worked hard to get them back and to just seeing them actually playing is very rewarding. It was such a sense of relief. All of the work finally paid off. Seeing the look on their faces is special, and probably why we don’t see many arguments. They are all simply happy to be back.”