By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Steve Simmons is a 27-year-old master of the mound for the first-place Yankees in the 18-over Pistono Division of the Detroit MSBL, the same division that Steve’s friendly foe Mitch Shedlowsky plays in. Mitch threw the other perfect game this year on July 12th and plays for the Redbirds in the same competitive division, whom the Yankees are tied with as of this writing on July 29th. The Yankees are 15-2-2 and Mitch’s Redbirds are 16-3. Steve’s perfect game came first, back on May 25th against the same Rockies team, as his Yankees defeated them 4-0.
“Mitch and I actually pitched against each other in college here in Michigan,” explained Simmons. “He went to Albion and I played for Kalamazoo. We were never the aces of the staff. I guess we bloomed a little later than the others. We are very familiar with one another.”
Mitch had his perfect game story published last week on the MSBL website so I will switch some well-deserved gears toward Steve. I first need to explain what the word ‘dominance’ means. As they say, look up the word in the dictionary and it has Steve’s picture. Steve has an unbelievable 114-4 strikeout to walk ratio in 2022! OK, you can now quit drooling all over your computer or device. That is an accurate stat. As a pitcher, I personally may not have struck out 114 batters in my lifetime, let alone in one season, and I’m an old guy!
Added league president Mike Juliano, “When Steve goes to the mound, the other team knows that the odds are stacked against them and they are in for a long night. He is totally dominant.”
“When I joined the league in 2018 there were only eight teams in our age division and it was sort of awkward because I could still throw in low 90s and was dominating,” said Simmons. “But something good came from it because now there are some real quality ex-professional, indy, and college players coming in because of the competition so that they can keep playing at a high level. There are now two divisions, with one for the more competitive and serious ballplayers. That was a great strategic move by Mike Juliano to split the 18-over division based on skill level. We now have 19 teams playing. That is amazing growth!”
Cory Osborne is the manager of the Yankees and Steve assumes the role of his assistant manager. The Yankees consist of many ex-college players and former independent league players. Steve played his first four years in the Detroit MSBL with the Mets but injuries and guys moving away took their toll on the team so Steve moved over to the Yankees. I am sure that Cory didn’t require a tryout for the Yankees.
I asked Steve about his baseball journey and how he ended up throwing in the low to mid-90s and not playing somewhere now for a nice paycheck.
“I barely played in high school. Then in my senior year, I started asking various colleges about a walk-on spot. Kalamazoo was a doormat back then and decided to give me a shot but my first year I had something like a 9.00 ERA. Then in my sophomore summer, I got to play in Alaska against some of the best players in the country, got a little stronger, then was hitting the high 80s. As I progressed and learned more, I played independent ball for a few years but life as a professional pitcher just wasn’t in the cards.”
How did your MSBL career start?
“I was watching March Madness with my dad and out of the blue I mentioned how much I missed baseball. I was encouraged to call the Detroit MSBL and was told to come and throw at a tryout. I was throwing 93 MPH at the tryout and there was a guy from the 18-over Mets there and he came over and told me that there doesn’t need to be any more tryout. He said I was a Met and told me when to meet the team!”
Steve is also an MSBL World Series participant and will be making his way back to the dry heat for this year’s edition.
“I went with a team last year that was a little short in players. I pitched game one and we won but I ended up pitching 31 innings in five days! That was too much. We are going as our own team from Michigan this year as the Motor City Trash Panda’s in the 18-over division and have a very good team and enough guys to make a good run. We are really looking forward to it.”
Regarding the big May night and the perfect game, when did it sink in that something special might be happening?
“I didn’t sense anything different while warming up. These types of games usually hit me about the fifth or sixth innings. I don’t really stress about it because we have really great fielders and I completely trust them. When I went out for the last two innings (seven-inning game) I broke it down mentally, out by out, saying to myself ‘it’s only six outs’ and just kept subtracting.
The funny part is that I had 14 K’s (out of a possible 21) so the outfielders maybe got a little relaxed and when everyone started jumping around after the final out, the center fielder jogged in as usual and asked what was going on. He had no idea! My good buddy and manager Cory called a great game behind the plate. A perfect game isn’t something you achieve alone.”
Were there any scary moments when the perfecto could have slipped away?
“I ran two guys to 3-0 and 3-1 but fortunately threw strikes and they both struck out. Also, our speedster center-fielder, John Starks, had to go back maybe ten steps to snag a fly ball but he had a great read on it and had it all the way.”
In college, Steve was a pitcher, shortstop, and outfielder and considers himself very lucky to have had the opportunity to do it all at Kalamazoo.
“That was a wonderful experience but now we have such a well-balanced team here in Detroit that I just DH so that all these talented guys can go out and do what they do best, and what is best for the Yankees.”
Any funny, or painful, remembrances from your past years of ball?
“I remember we had a powerhouse lineup in high school and rolled through everyone and in a critical game against a good team, the other team had to throw their number two guy so we felt good about our chances but he was doing a great job and made the game a tight one. Our guy was tiring and we needed some relief in the last inning so the coach had me and another guy getting loose. The coach signaled for the other guy to come in and he balked in the winning run. I still have nightmares about that one,” laughed Simmons.
Editor’s note: If you happen to be playing in the 18-over division of this year’s MSBL World Series and the Trash Pandas are on the schedule, you may want to fire up a sore hammy and sit that one out!