Western Massachusetts Starts Up July 8th with a Six-Pack of 25-over Teams
By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
The Western Massachusetts Wood Bat League is run by a Bullie. Well, that’s not exactly a bad thing. 35 year old league president Tony Consiglio plays shortstop for the 7-3 Bullies and is currently batting .364 with an OPS of .941. It is safe to say that Tony doesn’t spend all of his time behind a desk making schedules for the six-team league and enjoys participating in the trenches with the troops.
The WMWBL began on July 8th, which is when phase three of the state guidelines allowed baseball to start up in Massachusetts.
“We usually start mid-April and run through the end of August with games usually on Wednesday nights and also Sunday mornings,” said Consiglio. “After Labor Day we traditionally have a less-structured fall session that even includes some other leagues. It is more casual and includes one game per weekend with some playoffs, but not this year unfortunately.”
The league is a 25-over league technically based in Springfield, though they play in five different towns around Springfield. The league started in 2009 under the direction of Mike Whatley, while Tony became the president in 2018 after performing vice-presidential duties for a few years before that.
“Last year we had eight teams and would have had eight again but the teams had more financial concerns than specifically virus related. We look forward to having eight again in 2021. It will sure make my scheduling duties a lot easier!”
We asked Tony what special considerations he implemented to combat the virus and work within the state guidelines?
“We staged meetings throughout the early months and when phase three came out it finally included state and local guidelines of what you could do to start playing. We require masks when on the bench, no crowding in the dugout and also incorporated sanitizer to be around all the time, including in the dugouts. Our umpires work behind mound with masks, which should continue for the rest of the year. There were no rules regarding holding runners at first or having to wear masks so we didn’t incorporate that provision so that we could maintain a true baseball experience.”
As a relatively new president facing a pandemic, what has been your biggest challenge in this crazy 2020 season?
“Just not knowing when we would be allowed to come back was emotionally draining. We thought maybe phase two would allow us to play but we still couldn’t get any definitive answers and ultimately had to wait for phase three. Some field owners didn’t know when they could host games so it was all very confusing. Getting the final clearance was our biggest challenge.
Finally, being able to go out and play baseball became really special this year and nothing I will ever take for granted again. It feels good to help provide the product and share my passion with our league members. Some other area leagues had to cancel but we are one of the only ones playing. We pulled it off, which is extremely gratifying.”
As a final request, we asked Tony what he felt was the reason for the continued success of the league. He was quick to answer, without hesitation.
“Consistency. Since 2009 we have been able to make the players feel comfortable while they enjoy the effort we have gone through to provide a quality product, and it shows every time they hit the field. Our teams have been together for a long time and everybody knows each other. Our newest team is already three years old. The rookies are now veterans!”