In the majors, it was a first Fall Classic win for the Texas Rangers, but the guys behind Baseball BBQ made it three in a row at the Men’s Senior Baseball League World Series. The 2023 40+ Mountain Division was teeming with talented ball clubs and games were hard-fought throughout the tournament. But, when the dust settled after a scorching week in the Arizona sun, the Baseball BBQ Forkballers claimed their third-straight championship.
The deep and talented Baseball BBQ Forkballers squad was able to grind through the round-robin games with a 4-2 record. With temperatures exceeding 100 degrees all week, manager Brett Mandel was able to use that depth to the team’s advantage, playing winning ball while getting key players enough time on the bench to keep them fresh for the playoff run. A complete-game victory by Bret Binder, a strong outing by Chuck Lovell, and ever-ready relief from Rick Moreno helped anchor the pitching staff’s efforts while Antonio White, Danny Tyler, and Robert Hawkey patrolled the outfield with rally-killing defense. Sweating it out behind the dish, Fred Clough, David Waite, and Ken Callaway made all the right calls to get their guys quickly back into the dugout shade.
After claiming the top seed for the playoffs, the Forkballers matched up against a tough Clancy’s Irish team that had handed them a loss earlier in the week. At the top of the lineup, Russel Kessinger and Lester Reinoso each had two hits to set the table and Kyle Hinds and Riley Berton each drove in a pair of runs as the Forkballers powered their way to an 8-4 victory to send them to the championship game.
Under a cloudless sky at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Forkballers squared off against the Dust Devils for the 40+ Mountain Division crown. Lawrence Richmond and Mick Myers provided a potent 1-2 punch as the 3-4 hitters, combining to score and knock in 11 Forkballer runs. Ray Vetter deftly tracked down a pop-up in no-man’s land to end a threat and Mike Mullen knocked in two runs late to key a rally that broke open a one-run game. But, the story of the championship was pitching and the Forkballers turned to their old warhorse, Ian Downes, who held the Dust Devils’ potent offense to three runs over six inning for a much-deserved win — his third of the week. After hurling a complete-game gem in the semifinals, Rich Ropp came in to nail down the win, striking out the final batter to secure a 12-5 victory.
With temperatures reaching well beyond 100 degrees each day and tough opponents for every game, the action on the field at this MSBL World Series was hotter than ever. Off the diamond, the Forkballers thoroughly enjoyed the week in ‘Zona, highlighted by a raucous steak-night/kangaroo-court party, a chance to take in Phillies/Diamondbacks NLCS baseball at Chase Field, and the simple joys of old jokes being shared by guys who have been making this trip for 15 years.