By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Just like Elroy Face, who went 18-1 in 1959 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Russel Kessinger is a Forkballer. Well, sort of. Though he is also a pitcher of exceptional quality, the Forkballers are the team he is a part of from the Greater Philadelphia MABL who just won consecutive MSBL World Series championships, and is managed by League President Brett Mandel.
We recently asked Brett if there were any league members who are making headlines and who would be worthy of a shout-out to everyone about what they are accomplishing. Brett’s reply was short and swift.
“Russel Kessinger has been one of the standout players in the GPMABL for quite a while and also on our Forkballers World Series team,” said Mandel. “In addition, he is a bat maker for Victus, turning bats for the best in the game.”
Russel’s plate is certainly full, especially in the bat-making business.
“Victus started making bats in Jersey in 2012,” explained Kessinger. “I started with them in 2017 and they grew so fast with their sensational quality of bats that the guy sold it to Marucci. It sounds a little confusing but Victus is separate from Marucci and does their own thing. The company that owns Marucci owns Marucci, Victus, Lizard Skins, and Bombats.
The bats are made right outside of Philly and it is now my full-time job. I was also tending bar but covid knocked me out of that. I work in the production department. I’m 42 years old and the old guy on the floor!”
Here is the website to check out: Victussports.com
Russel’s MSBL career began in the Chesapeake MSBL back in 2006.
“I played in Chesapeake first in 2006. I went to a tryout and there was enough for a new team so they started one. We went .500 that year. I hadn’t played ball since legion so it was a definite struggle at first but I fell in love with baseball all over again.”
Russel is that sought-after commodity on the mound.
“I’m a left-handed pitcher and also play center field. I can play first base, too. Just point me somewhere!”
Russel moved to Philly and started playing in Brett’s league in 2011 and also traveled back to Chesapeake for a while and played in both leagues. Right now, he plays for Brett’s Bad News Bears in the 40+ division of the GPMABL. I asked Russel if he had a special league moment and he reverted back to Chesapeake.
“I was part of a first championship in 2012. It was with the Pirates in the 25-over division but the real story that makes it special is that this was the manager’s first title after 15 years of trying. I was very happy for him and it really made it nice.”
When did the national tournament years begin?
“I have been going with Brett to Arizona since 2012, and before that to Florida for the Fall Classic in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The first Arizona title in 2021 with the Forkballers renewed my spirit after so many years. The core group was so happy and it meant so much. Baseball is where all of my relationships have come from and so many friendships have been made at the World Series. Consecutive championships (2021, 2022) is just the cherry on top.”
I asked Russel if he helps manage or coach the Forkballers in any way.
“Oh, heck no. That’s Brett’s baby. He gets excited about planning things. He loves it and the whole experience. When we go to Arizona, he makes an itinerary that is so detailed I could never do anything like that. He’s a great manager and I’m just a player trying to contribute.”
Are there a lot of his Victus bats in the hands of league members?
“We do have a lot of bats floating around the league. I love seeing them in the hands of the big guys on TV, too, and I also enjoy sending them around the country. A friend of mine is a nurse and they have leagues in Guam and are using Victus.”
There is a final note regarding a special All-Star game Russel partakes in every year.
“The ‘E’ on the jersey in the picture is for East versus West. It’s an annual tribute game celebrating the Negro Leagues being the first league to perform an All-Star game. Basically, it is a bunch of random men’s league guys and some high school or college kids sprinkled in. I’ve been able to pitch in front of at least 1,000 people, but attendance varies from year to year. We play at the Bowie Baysox Stadium in Maryland so that’s always nice.” Check it out: //www.nllhof.org/.
“I love baseball…it’s my life. It’s nagging at me constantly.”
Well stated and certainly shared by thousands of others across the MSBL nation.