“Don’t go soft, play hardball!”
That’s the slogan of the Men’s Senior Baseball League (MSBL)/Men’s Adult Baseball League (MABL). MSBL/MABL is the premier amateur baseball league for adults 18 years of age and older. Founded in 1988, it is the fastest-growing adult baseball organization in the country. The league has 325 local affiliates, 3,200 teams and 45,000 members who play organized amateur baseball in local leagues, 30 regional tournaments and six national tournaments.
You may be surprised to learn that we have a men’s adult baseball league here in northwest Louisiana. The Red River Adult Baseball League (RRABL) has been around since 2009. The RRABL grew out of the Shreveport-Bossier Men’s Senior Baseball League (S-BMSBL), which was started by Brian Horn in 1993.
The RRABL is a wood-bat league that plays primarily on the weekends from late-April to Labor Day. There are two requirements for playing in the RRABL: 1. Players must be finished with their college playing careers; 2. Players must be at least three years removed from affiliated professional baseball.
“Coach, you play softball?” I’m often asked that question by my freshmen baseball players at Byrd High School. They think I’m lying when I reply, “No, I play baseball.” They snicker and scoff at the thought that their old coach still plays baseball. I do catch a good bit of friendly ribbing from the other coaches on the Byrd staff, most of whom weren’t born when I graduated from high school in 1987. I love the fact that the RRABL gives an “old guy” like myself a place to play the great game of baseball.
I first started playing in the S-BMSBL many years ago when Jim Cardelli, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at LSU Health Sciences Center, urged me to come out and toss around the old horsehide. I told him that I had not played in years, and was in no real physical shape to play organized baseball. Cardelli encouraged me to come out to Tinsley Park in Bossier City one evening, take batting practice, and shag some fly balls. I finally agreed to meet some other players at Tinsley and give it a try.
I had to go dig in the closet for my old high school glove. I found the old Rawlings Dale Murphy model RBG36 with the basket weaved pocket on the floor of my closet. My poor old mitt was on life support and crying out for a conditioning. Inside the pocket, I found a pair of black Franklin batting gloves one of the guys from the Shreveport Captains had given me back in 1997.
On the way to Tinsley Park, I remember thinking what a buffoon I was for believing I could still play baseball. When I arrived, I was immediately introduced to a bunch of guys, some of whom I had some really pleasant conversations with prior to going warm up with Cardelli. After shagging some fly balls in the outfield, it came my turn to hit and there was only one thought coursing through my head, “Whatever you do, don’t embarrass yourself!”
Much to my surprise and delight, I had a decent round of batting practice. I swung the bat well and had some solid shots, so I was relieved not to have embarrassed myself. However, hearing the crack of the bat and feeling the old leather glove made my desire to play grow immensely.
I will readily admit there was an enormous internal struggle going on inside me. The battle between my wanting and longing to play real baseball, and knowing that I hadn’t faced real pitching in years caused doubts to creep into my head. “Can I compete with these guys?” “Am I good enough?” Well, that was 15-plus years ago, and here I am today, 47-years-old and still playing.
The list of names of the teams I’ve played on in my years includes the Red Sox, Riverdogs, Roadrunners, Kingsmen and Tigers. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season because I’ll be managing the Shreveport Scorpions in the 45+ division.
I love baseball. It was the first sport I fell in love with as a young boy, and making the decision to play baseball in the RRABL was one of the best decisions I have ever made. If you or someone you know still has the desire to play baseball, then I implore you to sign up for the RRABL. You won’t regret it.
The league is currently having its annual membership drive. If you are interested in finding out more about the Red River Adult Baseball League, then visit the RRABL website at www.leaguelineup.com/redriverbaseball or email Pratt at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Remember, don’t go soft, play hardball!
By Charlie Cavell