Matt McBride played for a championship team at Liberty High School, was a Patriot League star at Lehigh University and spent 14 years in professional baseball, ending his career with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in 2019.
However, McBride didn’t want to stop playing baseball altogether. He spent last season playing with the Hellertown Royals in the Blue Mountain League, opting to return to the amateur league which helped launch his career.
He had spent time playing with the defunct MCS Cardinals in the early 2000s as a teenager and found the BML to remain a competitive league filled with young talent as well as those no longer in high school or college. and who have no particular professional aspirations.
“The league had gotten younger since my previous stint,” McBride said. “A lot of good college players are now coming back to play there and a lot of high school players who are just coming out of their senior years are playing there. Then there’s always this mix of older guys who are either in their late twenties or early thirties. Last year we even had two guys in their 40s. Guys who are still playing still love the game.”
After years of traveling across the country, including four major league games with the Colorado Rockies and Oakland Athletics, McBride is happy to be home with his family.
The BML still satisfies his desire to play the game he has always loved and at a competitive level.
“I had a lot of fun,” said McBride, who turns 37 on May 23. “No matter what type of baseball you play, once you’re on the field you’re in your element. Hellertown plays in a great place, Dimmick Park, and it was nice to be back in a dugout and to be around guys of different ages who all love the game of baseball.
McBride will return to Hellertown’s roster as the BML enters its 76th season this week with 11 teams. The Elite Sports Avengers are a new entry and will play most of their home games at Scherersville Field No. 5 in South Whitehall Township.
Each team will play a 30-game schedule, with the top six qualifying for the league playoffs.
The first three games are scheduled for Tuesday, and both finalists from last year, Hellertown and the Northern Yankees, are hosting games. Martins Creek visits McBride’s Royals and the Roseto Bandits take on defending champion Northern Yankees at Egypt Memorial Park.
With an assistant league officer Tim Fisher, here’s a look at each team:
Manager: Cody Krupa
Home field: Bryfogle Park, Berlinsville
2021 reg. season: 8-19, 9th.
Key players: C/IF Owen Fischl (.333), C/IF Austin Mueller (.308, 4 HR, 15 RBI), P Logan Magdits.
Quoteable: “We’re extremely excited for the season with a strong pitching team and a very talented young core of college baseball players,” said Krupa, who also serves as coach of the resurgent Lehigh-Carbon Community College team. “We expect to compete to be in the playoffs.”
Co-managers: Ellis Weitzman, Greg Hess, Carm LaDuca, Keith Tone.
Home field: Easton HS.
2021 reg. season: 12-15, 6th.
Playoffs: Lost to the Northern Yankees, two games to zero, in the quarterfinals.
Key players: IF/P Shawn Boylan (.286); DE/1B Trey Durrah (.452); P Scott Poulson (2.62 ERA); P Pete Violante (presented to Easton HS, Drew University).
Quoteable: “We’ve made the playoffs the past two seasons and again we have a young team with over a dozen comebacks,” Weitzman said. “We will try to do it three times in a row.”
ELITE SPORTS AVENGERS
Co-managers: Darren LePage, Steve Rau.
Home field: Scherersville No. 5, South Whitehall Township
Key players: None available.
Quoteable: “The roster consists of recent Avengers tournament program graduates from Emmaus, Parkland, Southern Lehigh, Becahi, Northwestern and Upper Perk only,” Rau said. “The majority of players are returning from their college baseball seasons or will venture out in late summer to compete in their upcoming freshman fall seasons. We plan to bring a new breed of young talent to the league to help maintain the high quality of baseball the BML has brought to the Lehigh Valley for the past few decades.
Manager: Bob Zerfass.
Home field: Dimmick Park.
2021 reg. season: 16-11, 4th.
Playoffs: Defeated Northampton, two games to zero, in the quarter-finals; beat Limeport Bulls, three games to one, in the semi-finals; lost to the Northern Yankees, three games to one, in the Finals.
Key players: IF Jack Rothenhausler (.396); P/C/UT Dan Blugis (.347); all leagues OF Ben Piripavel (.376); DH-1B Matt McBride; P Paul Roth (4-1, 39 PI); P Joe DePerno; Fr Brian Ernst.
Quoteable: “Expectations are pretty high,” Zerfass said. “This team could be the best since our last league year in 2012 after we won it in 2009, 2010 and 2011.”
IRON VALLEY REAL ESTATE ORIOLES
Manager: Zach Delp.
Home field: Curt Simmons Field, Egyptian Memorial Park.
2021 reg. season: 20-6-1, 2nd.
Playoffs: Lost to the Northern Yankees, three games to one, in the semifinals.
Key players: Zach Delp (MVP, Manager of the Year, All OF Leagues) hitting .429 with 11 HRs; 2B Ian Csencsits (all league selection) .346, 5 2Bs, 5 3Bs; 1B/OF AJ Brosious (all DH leagues) .362; C/OF Zach Merkle (.367); P/IF Jake Meyers (5-0, Turoscy Formula Award winner); P Justin Jachowicz (4-1); P CJ Saveri (former league MVP who hasn’t played since 2018).
Quoteable: “This could be a special year for us because of the talent in this group,” Delp said.
LIMEPORT BULLS PRINT PROJECT
Manager: CJ Salibi
Home field: Limeport Stadium.
2021 reg. season: 23-7, 1st.
Playoffs: Lost to Hellertown, three games to one, in the semi-finals.
Key players: 2021 Rookie of the Year and 3B All-League Dennis Pierce (.429); all-league 1B Damin Muth (.456); P/UT Matt Dobeck (.406); all-league pitcher Cooper Michael (7-0); P Luke Miller (6-0).
Quoteable: “We’ll have some new faces, but expect to be in the hunt for a title that’s all about good pitching, team chemistry and free baseball,” Saliby said.
Manager: Andy Robinson
Home field: Limeport Stadium.
2021 reg. season: 9-18, 8th.
Key players: P/IF Brian Robison (.256, 3 wins as a pitcher); OF/PBrad Nozzle (.325); IF/OF/P Jeff Cavanaugh (.258); C/P Doug Malitsch; DE/P Taylor Linn (.260).
Quoteable: “We have a group of young returning players and a few new players that will make us a more competitive team,” Robison said.
MARTINS CREEK STREAMERS
Manager: Jarred Monti
Home field: Pacchioli Field, Lower Mount Bethel Township
2021 reg. season: 11-16, 7th.
Main returnees: All-league DE Carson Freeman (.386); IF/OF Brandon Mazzie (.390, 4 HR); SS Matt Rosette (.383); OF/P Brian DelRosso (.302); 1B Josh Noviskey; P/3B Ben Moyzan; SS/P Collin Quintano.
Quoteable: “We are looking to get back on track in 2022 after a disappointing end to last season,” Monti said. “We will look to a group of mostly veterans and a few newcomers to set the tone for a successful season.”
THE NORTHAMPTON GIANTS
Manager: Nate Kester
Home field: Northampton HS
2021 reg. season: 13-13-1, 5th.
Playoffs: Lost to Hellertown, two games to zero, in the quarterfinals.
Key players: All-league catcher Steve Sulcoski (.353, 6 HR, 15 RBI); 1B Nate Kester (.369); Jared Angerman (.294); P Adam Maini (.333, 4-0 with Bulls last year); P Chris Fondas; P Donovin Fusco-Lamont; P Rod Berger (2 wins, 51⅓ IP); Cam Rodgers (2 wins).
Quoteable: “Last year our weakness came from lack of throwing,” Kester said. “With a handful of new players who are a mix of veterans and rookie pitchers, I expect to be strong contenders in the league.”
Manager: Brian Polah
Home field: Curt Simmons Field, Egyptian Memorial Park.
2021 reg. season: 17-10, 3rd.
Playoffs: Beat the Falcons, two games to nil, in the quarter-finals; beat the Orioles, three games to one, in the semi-finals; beat the Royals, three games to one, in the final.
Key players: C/1B All-League Utility Player Allen Umbenhauer (.388); OF/1B Jacen Nalesnik (.389); IF/P Chad Cooperman (.396); C/1B/DH Derek Holmes (.366, 3 3Bs); Hunting grass OF/1B (.393); OF/P Casey Rother (.469 in 2019); P Caleb Calarco.
Quoteable: “We got most of the core from last year’s Championship squad,” Polaha said. “We added some more talented players and we should be fighting for a title again.”
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Manager: Jarred Randolph
Home field: Bangor Memorial Park
2021 reg. season: 4-22, 10th.
Key players: OF/SS/P Mike Agosto (.333, 35 IP, 2 wins); IF/C Tommy Young (.265); 3B Seth Laky (.244); C/OF Kael Godshalk; 2B Tyler Batdorf.
Quoteable: “A good core of youngsters returning this year should help build a competitive team this summer,” Randolph said.
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