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Adult Baseball in the DC Area

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We’ve mentioned local area baseball leagues a lot lately in posts here.  I talked about my own experiences playing youth and adult baseball in my “All Virginia post” and many of the readers here have shared experiences playing in the local leagues in the comment sections of that post and in the comments section of a late December post.

I thought it’d be of service to readers to summarize information of known adult leagues for anyone who is perhaps interested in getting back to playing, or who knows someone looking for a team.  If you’re looking for a place to play this summer, now is the time to reach out and start making contacts/sign up to play.

I’ll list these leagues in perceived order of talent/skill/intensity from highest to lowest.  Each site also has links for those who may want to look into playing or watching.  I’m not including any youth, AAU, travel, American Legion, Babe Ruth or Cal Ripken (not to be confused with the Cal Ripken collegiate league) baseball here; we’ll start with College-age Adult baseball.

1. DC-Area Summer Collegiate Leagues: The wood-bat Cal Ripken Collegiate League has teams from DC, Maryland and Virginia and is the successor to the long-running Clark Griffith League, which formerly was one of the longest running wood-bat leagues in the nation.  The Clark Griffith league suspended operations in 2010 and has not been able to re-start itself.  Meanwhile the Cal Ripken league has flourished and expanded, taken some of the former Griffith teams and now has 10 teams competing.  The marquee team is the Bethesda Big Train, named after Walter Johnson and whose home games are at the fantastic Shirley Povich field in Bethesda (also the home-stadium of Georgetown University).  If you havn’t seen games at Povich, you should take a drive up there one night this summer and take in a game.  The quality of play is good (the players are either Division-1 college players or elite HS prospects) and the field is great.

The Cal Ripken league is a step down from the famed Cape Code League in terms of summer college talent … but then again nearly every other wood bat summer league is a step down as well.  Of the dozens of summer leagues out there, most pundits would rank the Cal Ripken league as a 3rd tier quality league (2nd tiers being leagues like the Valley League, the Northwest league, the Alaska league or the Coastal Plains leagues).  But the Cal Ripken league definitely has its share of pro alumni.

Eligibility: you must have college eligibility left to play in this league.  High Schoolers are eligible but rare.  Teams are competitively assembled and hand selected.

2. The Industrial League: The Industrial League is the most elite level of adult baseball in the area, filled with ex-Collegiate players and ex-Pros to serve as close to a “semi pro” league as we have in the area.  The current incarnation of the Industrial league plays Wood Bat and is the combination of two long-standing leagues (the “Industrial League” and the “Credit Union” league).   The old Credit Union used to play with Aluminum, but went to Wood fully upon its dissolvement.  There’s only a handful of teams; this league used to be much healthier.  The “history” page on the website is informative and gives some great background on the league itself and its origins.

By way of comparison; industrial teams used to scrimmage the Clark Griffith teams and would get wiped out.  Not so much because of talent, but because of depth.  These college summer league teams have full rosters and massive bullpens.

Eligibility: no restrictions; anyone can play at any age.  No restrictions on time sitting out if you are an ex-pro.

3.  DCMSBL/MABLDC Mens Senior Baseball League: a large adult baseball league (the 2nd largest Adult league in the Nation according to MSBL’s records) with divisions ranging from 19 and up to 55 and up.   DCMSBL started in 1991 (this year is its 25th anniversary) with just a 30+ division and now has dozens of teams split amongst 19+, 25+, 35+,45+,55+ and a wood-bat only league that crosses age divisions.  In 2012 the league had no less than 75 teams among all these divisions (each team has to have a minimum of 15 registered players, meaning there’s more than 1100-1200 players in the league).  Note: MABL stands for Mens Adult Baseball League, which was formerly the under 30 adult league now rolled into one organization).

The DCMSBL amateur league is pretty decent baseball.  The 19-and up is essentially a low-end collegiate summer league (though not nearly as talented as Cal Ripken).  There is some overlap with teams in the Industrial league and the Cross-age group woodbat leagues.  The 25 and up division has a large number of ex-college players and ex-pros, and the 35-and up teams have more than their fare share of ex-major leaguers as well.  Its not uncommon to face a guy in the 25+ division who was a starter for his Division-1 college team for 4 years and is just a few years removed from that level of competition.  There’s enough teams so that there are “upper” and “lower” divisions of play within each age group.  From an intensity standpoint, the “upper” divisions are quite competitive each year while the “lower” divisions are less intense but certainly not a “beer drinking” division like you’d see if you were playing softball.

Teams are organizing right now for play that starts in the first week of April.  There’s a player waiting list that you can sign up for at the website www.dcmsbl.com.

Note: there is also the Chesapeake MSBL that covers the Annapolis, Southern Maryland and Howard county areas with similar rules and talent levels to DCMSBL.  The two leagues play an all-star game at season’s end in one of the local minor league stadiums (this year in Frederick).

Eligibility: ex-professionals must sit out a year (I believe) before being eligible to play.

4. DC Wood Bat League, formerly associated with NABA and which absorbed teams from the old WARBL.  It had 12 teams for 2012 but in prior years had as many as 20 teams.  There seems to be some overlap between DCWood and DCMSBL teams, and this league definitely has had some talented teams in the past.   They play longer schedules than the DCMSBL guys.

Readers who know this league: how does it fare competition wise to DCMSBL?  I have suspected it is slightly lower in skill level but have no direct experience one way or the other.

Eligibility: 19+, no known pro restrictions.

5. Ponce de Leon league, owned and operated by Bob Duff, serves as an excellent low-key competitive league for players to play.   There are a slew of very specific competition rules that control the flow of games, prevent blowouts and limit the ability of pitchers to dominate the league.  But this league also guarantees participation and is a great option for guys who havn’t played in years or who are nervous about the intensity of the above leagues.

It is now affiliated with the DC Wood bat league somehow; this is a new affiliation and I don’t know all the details other than what’s on the websites.

Ponce has two age divisions; 30+ and 48+.  You have to be at least 30 and cannot pitch unless you’re at least 36 in the younger division.

Eligibilty:  30+ with restrictions as noted above.  No known pro restrictions.

6. Eastern Women’s Baseball Conference: the EWBC is an Adult Womens baseball league with teams from DC to Baltimore that plays competitively.  I must admit; I had not heard about them until prompted by suggestions.

7.  Other leagues that I’ve heard of that may or may not still be around:  I know there’s a small league in Southern Maryland called the Charles St. Mary’s League. It plays wood bat and has been around since the 1940s.  I can’t tell if this is what remains of the old “Chesapeake Independent Baseball League” or not.  The CIBL was also colloquially known as the Chicken Leagues and was truly semi-pro baseball; guys would get paid to come out and play.  As mentioned, the old Credit Union got rolled into the Industrial league a few years back.  WARBL got rolled into NABA.

Some of these links come courtesy of Bob Schnebly‘s website.  Schnebly has been involved in DC area amateur baseball for years; we ran into him in the Credit Union/Industrial league in the early 1990s.  His website is an interesting read for those familar with him or baseball in the area.


I’d love to hear from you if you’re familiar with any other area leagues that I may have missed, or if you have some thoughts on the post here.

Written by Todd Boss

January 22nd, 2013 at 8:49 am

11 Responses to 'Adult Baseball in the DC Area'

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  1. Thanks for posting this, Todd! I will note that the Ponce league divides into two divisions, 30+ and 48+. At least one of the women from the EWBC used to also play MSBL; with the Angels, IIRC. Pitching to her was annoying – not because she was a woman, but because she was really pesky. As you might expect, she had little power but was really fast. Someone told me she used to play with the Silver Bullets (http://www.coloradosilverbullets.org/) but I don’t know whether that was actually true.

    John C.

    22 Jan 13 at 10:23 am

  2. Wow I had no idea there was a woman in our league. I never knew that. Cool.

    I’ll modify the Ponce posting to add this distinction. What are the pitcher rules then for the different divisions? If you have to be 36 to pitch in 30+, do you have to be 50+ to pitch in the 48s? I didn’t see that distinction on their website.

    Todd Boss

    22 Jan 13 at 10:36 am

  3. To my knowledge, there is not matching pitching restriction for the 48+ Ponce. I guess they figure that the age distinctions have ironed themselves out by then :)

    John C.

    22 Jan 13 at 12:46 pm

  4. The Bethesda Big Train has been very good from pulling in star players from the California colleges as well as standouts from other regions.

    Its very good baseball and the players double as camp counselers in the youth baseball camps at Big Train where the Nats and Chad Cordero have participated.

    With Cal Ripken behind this league, I would expect it to keep improving in talent. The Baltimore team has Ryan Ripken as one of their star players.

    Steve

    22 Jan 13 at 1:05 pm

  5. Completely agree. I was a big fan of Clark Griffith and hoped the two leagues could combine forces or be a “north” and “south” division, but apparently travel difficulties in the area made that nearly impossible. The Cal Ripken league organizers are doing things the right way and I expect the league to continue to gain credibility and standing nationwide, as you say.

    Todd Boss

    22 Jan 13 at 8:37 pm

  6. Todd:

    I ran the Diamond Baseball Club in the Credit Union then the Industrial Baseball League from 1989 through 1998. In my ten seasons in the league we were 17 wins and 6 lost vs. CGL teams. Fairfax Furniture, Mercury Van Lines, Washington Union Printers and Joe Antonellis various teams from Classic Printing to Fed Lock Falcons all crushed CGL teams. Ask Billy Emerson or JJ Bolton. JJ played for me after your team left/folded and Billy played both for me and Joe.

    Also, the Chesapeake Independent Baseball League is still alive and well although they now play as a smaller league with 6 teams. The Charles~St. Mary’s League also still plays however, these have ALWAYS been separate leagues.

    Thanks so much for getting the word out there and thanks for mentioning my website. My wife and I now live in California, (Murrieta) however, I still keep my hand in with baseball back in the Washington, DC area.

    Bob Schnebly

    Bob Schnebly

    25 Mar 13 at 8:03 am

  7. Thanks Bob! I always thought the Clark Griffith vs Credit/Industrial was the other way around; at least thats what my dad told me when he was GM of the Fairfax Nationals (that the Fairfax team would always crush the Industrial teams). Maybe back in the 90s the talent levels were reversed, which is fair to think about honestly. The CGL was definitely weaker back then while the Credit Union was inarguably stronger. Still saddens me that the CGL guys couldn’t work something out with the Cal Ripken guys to keep both leagues active and doing inter-league play.

    Good to hear from you!

    Todd Boss

    25 Mar 13 at 9:22 am

  8. hey I’m trying to find a baseball team to play for i really miss playing i live in DC and cant find one here can someone help me plz

  9. Hi Reginald. Well all the links for the leagues in this area were in this article. The DCMSBL has literally dozens and dozens of teams; its the 2nd largest adult amateur league in the country. So there’s a LOT of baseball going on. If you want to wait, i’m pretty sure you can sign up for Ponce league and you’re guaranteed to be placed. In the meantime you should go to the msbl waiting list and signup; you may very well get a call. I know a few of those teams are hurting for players right now.

    Todd Boss

    2 Jun 13 at 6:21 pm

  10. Thanks for the info. I have not played in years, but would like to pitch so the 36yo restriction for Ponce de Leon is a bummer… $300+ is a lot for a league anyways.

    Without practice time, I would have no illusions that I could keep up with ex-pros, but softball is not fun for a former pitcher either.

    James

    4 Mar 14 at 2:49 pm

  11. We always struggled with people taking issue with the costs of these leagues .. DSMSBL has been in the $260-$270 range per season for a while now. But the umpires are ridiculously expensive per game (I want to say they’re nearly $100 per ump per game) and the balls aren’t cheap either. We don’t pay a ton in field fees, else the costs would be even higher. If $300 includes your uniform, you’re probably getting a good deal.

    I just heard of a new league so I updated the post: Legends or something like it. Maybe its less pressure and could be a good outlet.

    Todd Boss

    4 Mar 14 at 3:33 pm

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