By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
There is a little six-team gem of a league that plays it’s games every Sunday in East Rochester, New Hampshire, a neighborhood within the city of Rochester and located on the banks of the Salmon Falls River which separates Maine from New Hampshire.
That’s where you’ll find the Seacoast Men’s Baseball League. They began their MSBL affiliation in 1991 and are currently directed by Paul Brooks, League President since 1996.
“Our league is so fortunate to play on a private field so we are unaffected by any state or local rulings about fields you can use,” explained Brooks. “We are technically a 25-over league but to stay up with demand and keep new players coming in we have adopted a rule where three players aged 18-24 can play on each team, though they can’t pitch or catch.”
Their games are generally played on Sundays but usually beginning the first week in May. All bets are off in 2020, of course, but what modifications did the schedule require because of the pandemic?
‘We usually have a 15-game schedule but we simply cut off the first five games to compensate for the shorter summer and finish hopefully at the same time. We generally end our regular season at the end of August and then begin the playoffs the weekend after Labor Day. If things get drawn out or if there are rain-outs, we may find ourselves playing until the first week of October, but not very frequently.”
How have some of the gameday procedures changed because of state or local regulations?
“We have had nine inning games for many years with game starts at 9, 12 and 3 but this year went to a seven-inning game format and a two-hour time limit. Because the state set a 50-person limit, we couldn’t afford to have multiple teams and spectators mingling, so the incoming teams can’t arrive until one half hour before game time so that the previous teams have an opportunity to leave.
We have also mandated that the catchers have to wear a mask under their mask and there is no stealing of second base, no lead-offs and no holding on at first base. The six-foot rule is strictly enforced and sanitizer is readily available. They also must wear their own helmets and the defensive team supplies their own baseballs.”
Paul’s personal baseball pedigree involves being the manager and sometimes player of the perennial league champion Diamondbacks, who have been the champs for five years running.
“We have a lot of guys or the roster and I like to let them all play before me. I had a partial shoulder replacement surgery a couple of years ago that has made playing tough. I can still hit and play but maybe next year I’ll be full time again. I have played in maybe four MSBL World Series’ and want to get back there soon. I’m only 54 so I have plenty of time!”
What are some of the things that he did as a league president to keep everyone engaged during this down time?
“I tried to constantly keep everyone up to date on state guidelines and always emailed managers, umpires and field officials. I was as transparent as I could be. We didn’t want any misinformation or gossip out there. While constantly communicating with everyone we kept creating an optimistic tone. Steve Sigler has been great with the recommendations and always staying in touch. I checked with the state about what is recommended and made sure we followed their guidelines. We are unique is that we had to go by both Maine and New Hampshire guidelines as well as what the insurance companies needed. But we’re playing ball and everyone is happy. It was worth the journey.