By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
Mike Hughes is the 64 year ‘young’ baseball fanatic who is also know as the league president of the newly formed West Michigan MABL located in Holland, Michigan. Only cleats, no wooden shoes, are allowed and four teams are ready to suit up for the upcoming 2020 inaugural season. Mike is a well-traveled baseball aficionado, having lived and played ball in New York, Florida and Arizona before settling in Michigan. (West Michigan MABL Facebook Page)
“I’ve only been in Michigan for a year,” said Hughes. “I tried to start a league in Daytona in 2014 but got no interest, but that didn’t extinguish my desire to get something going. There are no leagues between Chicago and Detroit and we are two and a half hours from each of them here on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. It was time to bridge the gap.”
Mike tore up his knee seven years ago but still managed to play in Florida and New York. Then he went to Arizona to live with his daughter in Prescott and then Phoenix and played in the Arizona MSBL.
“I played Babe Ruth baseball in the 12 to 16-year old age range and was a pretty good hitter but then I got hit right between the eyes by a foul ball hit by Detroit’s Dick Mcauliffe. I came back to play later on but was really gun shy at the plate as a teenager and stepped in the bucket pretty severely. I couldn’t even hit the Mendoza line so I gave it up for many years.”
I asked Mike how he ended up putting a league together for the younger crowd, since MABL basically begins with an 18-over division. “In my research after moving here I found that the high school and college players had nowhere to play,” explained Hughes. “We also have a handful of players from 37 to 45 years old and two guys are 55. We hope to expand from four teams to six over the summer and maybe next year look at opening it up to an older division, maybe a 35 and over.”
Mike is hopeful of a big double-header league kickoff on May 30th, though his scheduled practices in April are in jeopardy with the virus. The May kickoff coincides with the end of the high school season, where fields are utilized by the high schoolers until then.
“We are still hopeful that we can get in our 12 to 16 game regular season and playoffs. We’ll go into the fall if we have to. Everyone is biting at the bit.”
Mike elaborated a little bit on the current coronavirus epidemic and how it affects his plans, both on and off the field. “Michigan recently went on lockdown, which of course impacts any league-associated gatherings. We are still optimistic and we are coming together and will be better on the other end. A couple of our guys run indoor training facilities so we can still train if we are very careful. We are still establishing our roots in the community. There are so many little leagues we have to share with but with little league also being pushed back it causes field problems.”
The local Holland Sentinel recently published a story about the new league. Here is a quote from the story: “I won’t go into all the benefits of MSBL/MABL affiliation, but there are too many to go on about here. The national recognition and popularity of the MSBL/MABL has been a big boost. It has helped me get publicity for us.
I thank the Sentinel for their nice article, and we stay in touch about developments…because they will help us again. Please go to www.msblnational.com… and you can see many more reasons why. Simply put, we are the best amateur baseball in the country. I wouldn’t have done this otherwise. I want stability after the dust settles.”-Mike Hughes
Click HERE to read the complete Holland Sentinel story.
The nationally known baseball website ‘Fangraphs‘ also picked up on Mike’s new venture and compiled a feature story about the West Michigan MABL. To read the Fangraphs article click HERE.