Men’s League of Baseball enters 40th season

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The Kingston Senior Men’s Baseball League, the county’s only baseball league, turns 40. This is a remarkable achievement for any sandy terrain circuit, not to mention a circuit designed and configured during a 1981 ‘car reunion’ in the decaying Nelles Megaffin park to the north. . More information on this crucial event in a moment.

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Birthdays aside, all is not sunny and pink for the old bead loop. The milestone anniversary is just a discreet nod to longevity and will undoubtedly pass without notice, with the possible exception of the hardball fans who have played during the league’s baptismal seasons and scores of players who followed and lived through the boom years of the mid-80s and 90s and the early years of the new century. For players past the age of the junior division (20) but still mindful of diamond time, the league was a godsend. And not just for them, but for the older guys who haven’t put on crampons in years. Prior to the league, the city had not had an established men’s baseball home league since the mid-1960s.

Birthday wishes seem trivial in light of the league’s most pressing issues. Survival, for example. Oh, nothing imminent, mind you, but worrying signs are looming on the horizon, including symptoms of the same deadly discomfort that has put the Circle Fastball League to sleep and brought down the Loughborough Fastball League and other leagues in the region. . The Good Doctor is alluding to Apathy – the # 1 killer in adult recreation leagues everywhere.

The men’s league is preparing for its 40th season opener in less than optimal form. He will try not to show his four-decade age, which by recreational league standards is “old.”

Over the past few years, the circuit has seen a gradual decline in registrations, a slide that has effectively halved the number of teams from 12 to the current half-dozen, who will play a shortened 2021 season for the right to have their team name. inscribed on the championship trophy. But good luck with that, by the way. League President Sean Wood reports that the last time a winning team’s name was added to the Staff Hammond League Championship trophy, Derek Jeter was still in the stripes and “Trudeau” was a front page name. the past.

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“I don’t know why (this tradition) stopped or why it was never relaunched,” Wood, 46, said in a telephone interview. “El president” for the past six years, Wood has been part of a group of longtime players with 25 or more seasons in the league. Which means he’s seen the league’s decline firsthand. He remembers the popular year-end awards banquets, where the season was recapitulated and told around beef, beer and belly laughs. The biggest prizes (home homers, throws, batting average, sportsmanship) honored old-time stars Charlie Pester, Keith Weese, Mickey Compeau and Joe Corkey respectively. The material was also awarded to the league and playoff MVPs and each team’s MVP.

Sadly, the banquets stopped years ago (see: Apathy, above). Ditto for the best prices. In fact, Wood says the league isn’t even sure where the trophies are. What happened? On the one hand, fewer and fewer teams were interested in statistics and even less in compiling them. No statistics, no trophies. Wood says the only league awards currently available to be earned go to the league pennant winner, league champion, and playoff MVP.

The league lacks “new blood,” which in any team acts like a twist of energy and enthusiasm. “There just hasn’t been that constant flow of new blood that a league like ours really needs,” said Brendan Fyke, who at 49 can safely be called “old blood.”

“It’s not like it used to be,” laments the 30-year league veteran who has spent nearly half of those campaigns in the largely thankless job of game director. “I remember when we used to do it. ” have tryouts for our draft picks, and they were practicing batting to show us what they had.

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“Now you are struggling to muster enough players for a game. “

For baseball players with long memories, today’s league is pale compared to that which operated in the heyday of the circuit, when the league regularly fielded a dozen to 14 clubs and both divisions were named d ‘after longtime minor ball supporters Staff Hammond and Vinnie McQuaide. A 22-game regular-season schedule was followed by two playoff rounds topped by a best-of-five final. Yours truly has been fortunate to have played in a few championship finals and refereed a lot of others. Either way, it was baseball in its purest, imperfect form: exciting, exacerbating, unpredictable, infuriating, thrilling, with timely plays, game-changing moments, mistakes. and moonshine – all wrapped up in two tidy hours and change. And we didn’t even mention the traditional post-game pops in the parking lot. Outside of the fantasy camp of a former big league, the league was the only place the local recreational player – long the backbone of the league – could still scratch an annual itch that came just as pitchers and pitchers. receivers showed up for spring training.

For that, congratulations go mainly to retired players Dan Kasaboski and Ken Cuthbertson, who attended the aforementioned “car meeting”. In 1981, Kasaboski ran an ad in the Whig-Standard asking for people interested in starting a men’s baseball league. Cuthbertson was the only one to respond (See: Apathy, above). Reunited in Kasaboski’s car at Megaffin Park, the two pitched a few ideas, debated a few suggestions and agreed that each of them would field a team. Another ball club was formed to make it a comfortable three-team league for the start. Kasaboski, now a 70-year-old retired accountant, kicked off six seasons in the league before life got involved. Retired journalist and “reform lawyer,” Cuthbertson, now a new grandfather in his seventies, was the founding member of the league’s player / manager and two-time 560 Legion champion. He pitched for 14 seasons until the age of 44.

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In the league’s inaugural season, registration with Cook’s Bros. Youth Center provided enough corps to fill four team rosters. Just six summers later, the league had 10 teams and a waiting list. The boom years were on.

Not anymore.

Still, the league is resilient. Even the coronavirus couldn’t keep a low profile like it did in recreational leagues in so many other sports. The men’s circuit, which started the 2020 campaign with eight teams before losing two, played a shortened season in two bubbles with three teams.

For Wood the president and for league stalwarts such as Fyke and Mike Chapman and retired stalwarts such as Pat Baldwin, Dan Meehan, Pedro Medora, Johnny Mundell, Kevin McArthur and others, there is reason to to be optimistic. The “new blood” mentioned by Fyke is already warmed up and prepared within the Kingston Baseball Association. This organization, ostensibly a primary power system for the men’s league, has seen entry numbers explode over the past six years, from 150 to over 600 today. Once these kids get past their teenage years, some won’t be ready to hang up. They will want more diamond time.

When that happens, the willing baseball gods, the Kingston Senior Men’s Baseball League, the league that gave adults a second lease on the game, will still be there.

Patrick Kennedy is a retired Whig-Standard journalist. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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