Chesapeake Men's Senior Baseball League
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Equipment drive for troops exceeds expectations
From the Maryland Gazette - July 21, 2007 - By Sean Burns, Sports Editor

When Chesapeake Men's Senior Baseball League president Duane Cordrey got word from his league's national office that it would be working on collecting baseball equipment to send to overseas troops, the Naval Academy graduate hopped right to action.

The veteran of the first Iraq war knows first-hand the kind of effect that a package, no matter how small, can have on a soldiers morale. "Really, there's nothing better than getting a package from home," he said. "Whether it's cookies from your mother or wife, or anything that shows that you have support coming from home, it means the world."

Well, after collecting equipment for the past couple months, Cordrey and the rest of the people at the CMSBL can be confident that they'll be making a lot of soldiers smile in the next couple of weeks at Forward Operating Base Sykes just outside of Tal Afar, Iraq.

The CMSBL, working with area businesses, youth groups, college teams and individual donors, recently packaged over 700 pounds worth of baseball gear, an estimated market value of $10,000 in balls, gloves, shoes and other gear to send to the base.

"This whole thing was just phenomenal, a great response from the community," Cordrey said. "Its just touching to think of how its going to effect these people, and let them have a little bit of home out there in the desert."

In the next week, Northrop Grumman - Cordrey's employer - will pay the full cost of shipping the equipment overseas. A summary of the gear being shipped includes 66 bats, 24 gloves, nearly 400 baseballs, 86 batting helmets, four full sets of catchers gear and enough bases to outfit 17 fields. In addition, Cordrey said that they will be shipping two cases of golf balls, because of a makeshift course that has been built near the base.

After Cordrey sent out the list of equipment collected, he recieved an email from Ken Wickelgren, an independent contractor working to train Iraqi citizens to serve as a police force near FOB Sykes who served as the overseas contact for the CMSBL's drive.

"Seeing this list of baseball equipment brings tears to my eyes...," he said. "These gifts will lift (the soldiers') hearts and let them know that there is plenty of support at home. Conditions here are, lets just say undesirable...It was 129 degrees yesterday, 122 if you could find shade..., but with your gift, our military men and women will have a chance to enjoy something from home."

As an added bonus, the drive collected over 400 pounds of youth baseball equipment, which will be shipped to Baltimore as part of Major League Baseball's RBI program, which is designed to encourage the game amongst inner-city youth.

Going to Bat for the Troops
The Pentagon Channel covered "Going to Bat for the Troops" in July 2007. Click on the picture below to see the video!

Bats For Troops
Fox 5 covered the "Bats for Troops" effort in June 2007. Click on the picture below to see the video!

Giving Back
From the Maryland Gazette - June 23, 2007 - By Sean Burns, Sports Editor

Though people's opinions on the war in Iraq are as varied and disparate as tastes in music or food, the fact remains that there are human beings involved on both sides of the conflict. A pair of local organizations are focusing in on that fact, as the Arundel Soccer Association and Chesapeake Men's Senior Baseball League have both been running equipment drives aimed at helping the people effected by the war feel a little more at home.

The CMSBL has been active in a drive to collect baseball equipment in usable condition to be sent over to U.S. soldiers in the Middle East, an idea that came from the national office of the Men's Senior Baseball League, of which the CMSBL is an affiliate.

. . .

. . . the CMSBL's program began with a soldier overseas. A member of a MSBL team in Minnesota was deployed and expressed interest in getting some baseball leagues going between the troops, so he sent a letter to the league's national office in New York.

"Since it's the baseball season, a lot of guys over there are following baseball and are also interested in showing the sport to their Iraqi counterparts," said Duane Cordrey, President of the CMSBL. "Steve Sigler (National President of the league) sent out a memo and gave us an address to ship things to, and it really has taken on a life of its own."

The drive which continues through Thursday, has seen contributions from all kinds of people, according to Cordrey. League members and friends have chipped in greatly, as have local high school players that found out about the program. The Naval Academy baseball team has been a big help, and Cordrey's employer, Northrop Grumman, has volunteered to foot the bill to ship the goods to the Middle East.

"No matter what people's opinions are of the conflict, something like this really shows that it's about the people," said Cordrey, himself a Naval Academy graduate and Operation Desert Storm Veteran.

The pieces of equipment donated have covered the spectrum of the game, from old gloves and bats to full sets of catchers equipment. Even youth equipment has been turned over, which Cordrey says will be donated to Major League Baseball's RBI program, an initiative to revive the sport in inner cities in the United States.

"This whole thing has just been inspiring", he said.

Going to Bat for the Troops
Baseball leagues help collect equipment for soldiers serving in Iraq
From the Baltimore Sun - June 6, 2007 - By Jeff Seidel

Darryl Morhardt (left), Mel Sykes, Alex Brunett, Vic Auletta, Duane Cordrey and Tad Trias represent adult baseball leagues who are joining the effort to support soldiers' efforts to start teams and teach about the sport in Iraq.
(Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)
Jun 4, 2007
Two Anne Arundel County men who have joined a nationwide effort to collect baseball equipment for Americans serving in Iraq share more than the typical desire to cheer up the troops: They used to be in the military, too.

Duane Cordrey of Glen Burnie graduated from the Naval Academy in 1990 and served in Operation Desert Storm, while Mel Sykes of Annapolis has served in Vietnam, Germany and the United States.

Both understand the stresses - and boredom - of being overseas, and that's why they support the new effort started a few weeks ago by a Minnesota contractor in Iraq.

Ken Wickelgren, who plays in the national Men's Senior Baseball League, sent a note to league organizers urging them to donate bats, gloves, balls and other equipment to help American soldiers start a few baseball teams as well as to teach Iraqis about the game.

Sykes, who is in the 38-Plus Baltimore Area Senior Baseball Association, and Cordrey, who is president of the Chesapeake Senior Men's Baseball League, are working on getting players and teams to chip in.

"Mel and I are very passionate about this," said Cordrey, who works for Northrop Grumman. "There's a lot of equipment, but we have a lot of troops."

"I think we'll be able to support at least three teams, possibly more," Cordrey added.

To make things easier, Sykes, who is an attorney, said that he has a client who will pay for the shipment to Iraq. Sykes has compiled a rubberized home plate and a commitment for bats, balls and gloves. He's also working on getting helmets, spikes, bases and difficult-to-get catcher's equipment.

That's where Steve Sigler comes in. The national president of the New York-based Men's Senior Baseball League, which has about 44,000 participants in about 300 leagues, Sigler already has sent out two sets of catcher's equipment that Wickelgren recently received.

"It should be a morale booster for the troops," Sykes said. "I know [Wickelgren] wants to teach Iraqis to play. Winning the hearts and minds is what it's all about."

"We [should be] helping our servicemen in Iraq," Sigler said. "It's so sad that we have such a divided country on this. We're fighting terror. It's just another example, [and] anything that we can do to show support because they don't get much support."

In addition, having real baseball equipment will also let the soldiers serving so far away have something that reminds them of home.

"We all have a strong interest in helping the troops," Sykes said. "It's a small contribution, but at least it's something."

Reviving a Tradition and a Rivalry
From the Baltimore Sun - July 12, 2006 - By Jeff Seidel

Duane Cordrey loved getting the chance to play in an All-Star baseball game between the Chesapeake Men's Senior Baseball League and Southern Maryland, a similar group. He played in it twice, in 1999 and 2000, before the event was stopped. But Cordrey recently took over as the Chesapeake league's commissioner and president and pushed to get it started once more. Cordrey remembered how much he had enjoyed the game, which took place again last weekend in LaPlata.

Two games were played Saturday as part of the All-Star festivities. First came the American Division game, where a Chesapeake Division team rolled to a 10-1 victory over a Southern Maryland group. The second game belonged to Southern Maryland, which rallied for three runs in the final inning for an 11-10 victory over Chesapeake in a match of National Division players.

"When we did it back in the past, it was a lot of fun," Cordrey said. "There was a lot of camaraderie, and a lot of the guys in our league knew a lot of the guys in their league."

That's a big reason Cordrey wanted to make the event happen. He called Mike Steinhauser, the Southern Maryland commissioner and president, in the spring and asked his thoughts about getting the All-Star event restarted. Steinhauser agreed with Cordrey, and they worked at finding a place to play. Steinhauser said they'd like to try and make it an annual event.

"Everyone enjoyed the day," Steinhauser said. "We'd like to keep it going. It was a lot of fun." In addition, they had a home run derby to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, something the leagues supports on a national level. Cordrey said they raised about $300 for this cause.

The Chesapeake Men's Senior Baseball League is for players age 25 and older, with players in their late 50s participating. There were about 15 players on the four All-Star teams. John Goode managed the victorious American division team while Jeff Wolf ran the National division group.

Cordrey said the teams were picked from 96 players who play for Anne Arundel teams in both divisions. There are six teams for players ages 25 and older affiliated with Anne Arundel County in this league.

"It was great because we have a little bit of a friendly rivalry with Southern Maryland," Wolf said. "They've got good players, and we have a lot of fun. It's something that we want to keep going."

The American division game easily belonged to the Anne Arundel team. Jason Baker carried the game, going 4-for-4 with two homers and five RBIs. He also had a double and a single. Baker started and pitched the first three innings, getting the victory. Six pitchers held Southern Maryland batters to one run on six hits. Russell Kessinger also homered for Anne Arundel in the victory. Brandan Sands added two hits and two RBIs.

The second game belonged to Southern Maryland, thanks to a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning. That erased a 10-8 lead and gave them the 11-10 victory. Ian Hendricks, recently named the varsity baseball coach at McDonogh in Baltimore County, had two hits in the loss. Cordrey added two hits, and Tony Canterna blasted a home run. Brian Sands also homered, and he and Canterna combined for back-to-back round-trippers while teammate Brendan Mannix added a home run.

There also was fun in some other ways. One of the Southern Maryland players successfully proposed to his girlfriend during the seventh-inning stretch - and then got a single later that inning.

"It was good baseball," Wolf said. "It's not a bunch of old men running around on one leg there. It's entertaining, and I enjoy it. This was kind of like an All-Star break for us."

Cordrey loves baseball, having played in this league since moving here 12 years ago. "It fosters sportsmanship, camaraderie, charity and bragging rights maybe," Cordrey said.

Love of Baseball Keeps Teams in Game
From the Baltimore Sun - June 14, 2006 - By Jeff Seidel

Darren Vican is this year’s groom for the Pirates of the Adult Baseball League from the Department of Recreation and Parks.

The Pirates seem to have a different player getting married each summer, giving teammates the chance to come to the wedding to help celebrate. That’s what will happen when Vican gets married in a ceremony outside Philadelphia next month.

It’s likely to be a complicated weekend for the Pirates, who will head to Pennsylvania after work on Friday and stay through the first part of Sunday, when everyone is due back in Anne Arundel County for a 5 p.m. game.

“He’s going to miss his start that day,” manager John Goode said with a laugh.

The Pirates are typical of many in the 11-team league, a group of guys who still love to play the games despite approaching middle age and still will do almost anything to be out on a baseball field.

It’s definitely a release,” Goode, 39, said. “I go out and coach a lot of Little League, but this is a release for me because I get to play the game as opposed to coaching it.”

The Pirates might be a bit more closely knit than most teams. It has a strong nucleus of player who has been together for several years. They are friends on and off the field, with baseball serving as a central point.

Eight players on the team played for the Arundel High School program under Bernie Walter, something that serves as a connection. They work hard to play baseball the way Walter teaches it, emphasizing the fundamentals.

Jeff Porter, the facility superintendent for Joe Cannon Stadium and Randazzo Park and who runs the league for Recreation and Parks, said this league is simply about guys who want to keep playing the game they love.

“If somebody’s a die-hard baseball fan, and they want to stick with the game that they know, this is a chance to get together and have some fun,” Porter said.

Porter said that most teams have been together for years and that if one splits up, other will absorb those players. It’s the type of league where everyone knows everyone and relationships are strong.

“It’s just guys that … don’t want to play softball,” Porter said. “They’ve played baseball since Little League, and they want to continue playing. Just because they get older doesn’t mean the competitive juices wane.”

The league runs through the spring and summer as each team plays 21 games, plus playoffs. Two games a played per week at four county sites.

But some teams play even more baseball. The Chesapeake Marlins and the Pirates, for example, head to the Men’s Senior Baseball League Nationals, a tournament held in Tampa Bay, Fla., for several days each November. Teams from all over the country, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other places participate.

Marlins Manager Tad Trias said they love the tournament for a number of reasons, including that the players can play on minor-league fields that professional ballplayers work on.

“That’s really a Class A tournament,” Trias said.

The Pirates are going as a team for the first time. The players have arranged to take time off to head down to Florida.

The Marlins also enjoy themselves during the season. Much like other teams, they get together on a regular basis after games to socialize.

“Believe me, I like the winning, but part of managing [and playing] … it’s camaraderie,” Trias said. “It’s great fun.”

Like Goode, Trias played high school baseball. He then stuck with softball until he was old enough to compete in this league.

“I’ve always loved baseball, and I was just waiting to get into an adult league,” Trias said. “There was an 18-and-over league [in Baltimore], and I knew it was a little bit too far for me, and I didn’t know any of the guys there. This was where all my guys that I knew played, so I was just waiting to hit the right age.”

Age does make a difference. That’s why seeing how the Pirates do the day after Vican’s wedding could be an interesting baseball story in itself. But as long as they’re out on the field, they’ll be happy.

“It’s a blast just to be out on the field,” Goode said. “We just have so much fun hanging out together.”