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/MABL: DC 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.