“Fortunate Misfortune”

John DeBenedictis, President, Tri-State MSBL


by John DeBenedictis

In the past four days,  I have had the misfortune of having to attend funeral services for two of our stellar players and persons in the Tri-State 48+/55+ MSBL: Billy Cameron and Alan Lerner.

As I sit here, unable to sleep and reflecting on the experience, I realize it has been a “fortunate misfortune.”  If you are wondering what I mean by that, I understand. I’m not sure myself what I mean by that, so let me try to explain.

Admittedly, I started this league for selfish reasons. I had played 30+ baseball as a 50+ year old (including one year with a 30-year-old son as a teammate) and I played 40+ baseball until I was 60 years old. That level was obviously passing me by. There was no 50+ league, so I started one. The same was true for the 55+ division. Now, even that has passed me by. Some of you have asked why I continue to do the work to keep the Tri-State league going. I think I now clearly understand.

The Impact of the MSBL

First, let me say that many of you have sent me testimonials over the years that convinced me how important this league is and the positive impact it has had on many of you.

It has encouraged some of you to lose as much as 60 pounds to improve your playing conditioning and has created an untold number of friendships, and even helped families bond through the Father Son efforts.

Many of you take advantage of the opportunity to play National Tournaments and many have experienced the thrill of winning national titles.

I appreciate those testimonials, and they have convinced me that this league is an important adjunct to our lives. They make me feel I have the opportunity to “give back” to the game that has been so good to me over the years. It is a way of saying “thank you” to all the people who made the possible the leagues in which I have participated over the years.

A few days ago, I attended the service for Billy Cameron, and was pleased to see a huge turn-out from our local MSBL league. I enjoyed the conversations and was exhilarated by the expressions of love for their fellow ballplayer. The respect everyone had for Billy was overwhelming.

Today, I stood in the audience again at the service for Alan Lerner as his brother Ben Lerner recounted the story of his brother Alan and he playing “sock baseball” as youngsters in their bedroom with a rolled-up sock and souvenir mini-bat, while standing on their beds and hoping their activity didn’t disturb their Dad. I almost felt I was standing there watching them having fun. It brought back memories of my own efforts to “invent” ways to play the game regardless of how many players were available or what limited equipment we had or even what the weather had in store for us.

Ben went on to explain how important baseball was, and how they played Little League ball together. But he said, as they got older Alan had the talent to continue to play in high school and the Penn-Del League, while he, Ben, was relegated to the sidelines as a fan enjoying his brother’s success. He obviously took great pride in his brother’s achievements. I remembered the pride I took in my brothers.

As Ben told us of how Alan and he finally got back on the field together in the 55+ division of the MSBL, the tears streamed down my face. I recalled the excitement in Alan’s voice back when he first told me that he was going to get his brother Ben to come out for the team. The brothers were reuniting on the ball field after a half century. That was powerful. I stood there picturing these little kids with their toy bat and sock morphing into gray-haired old men running around a ball field, instead of sitting in front of a TV watching others play. It was a moving experience.

You can rest assured that as “Father Time” relegates me to the bench–or even pushes me aside–that I will continue to do all I can to perpetuate the opportunity this league provides to everyone who has a desire to play.

The greatest tribute any of you can ever pay to me and to our sport will be to continue to provide the opportunity for anyone to play this great game of ours long after my turn arrives to move along to whatever lies ahead.

I will guarantee that if you take up this challenge, and if you keep in mind the benefits I outlined above, you will find it more than worth the occasional grief and aggravation that comes with the territory.

Let’s Play Two!!!

John DeBenedictis


About Jackie Piro

Freelance Associate, MSBL National online. Former Publisher and Managing Editor of HardBall Magazine, the magazine of the Men's Senior and Men's Adult Baseball League.
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