I have now known John "Stray" Corrado for about a year & a half now. Been a member of his two leagues, the Mid-West Baseball League (MWBL), possibly & probably the best league that is out there for BBW Leagues or any APBA League for that matter; Plus his winter edition league of retro BBW, called the Mid-West Winter League (in which we are are about to soon be drafting for the 1990 season). I have yet to find a league that has all of the dynamics, specifications, databases or draft managers as the MWBL offers. The MWBL uses an independent source that helps with the voting system as with season awards and All-Star voting, which collects all the votes. There is nothing like it, and it's the best league out there, because Stray expects nothing more than the best from the his owners & he puts every single part of his passion into the league. Don't believe me? Go check out the Mid-West Baseball League yourself!
We message each other quite often, and he eventually joined my Boys of Summer APBA Baseball League (BoS) right before the inaugural draft (his team is the Chicago Nine). I have learned a lot from him, and we have had many great discussions about the league & life in general.
So when I mentioned early in the week of March 1st, that my brother Chris & I, were going to be in Jackson, MI to play in the Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament (headed by my friend Rich Zawadzki). Stray came up with the idea of swinging by for a visit that afternoon/evening of March 7th, he had an Umpire school meeting in Romulus, MI. So now I had two things to look forward to on March 7th, the tournament & finally meeting Stray.
Of course, you all know, I didn't do well at the tournament, as my 1917 Chicago White Sox went 2-4, last in the Honus Wagner Bracket. My little brother on the other hand, took his 2006 Detroit Tigers to the GMABT Championship Game, only to lose to John Roels & the 1937 New York Yankees. Chris went 7-2 in his tournament run that day.
|Early at the tournament, Wendell (left) whooped my 1917 White Sox.|
After Chris was done with his championship game & the room started clearing out, with everyone from the tournament heading out. Stray offered to take us out, and buy us a meal. It was a bit of an adventure to find a place to eat, as we kept heading up the road, we finally found a bar, with a fish logo on it -- this looks good, we were all really just wanting to find a place to relax & shoot the bull...
and that we did...
We just all clicked, it reminded me of when I met my best friend Neil, in the service. We clicked right away, and with Neil these days, with his kids getting older, and being out in California, we don't talk as much...
|A screenshot of the MWBL site, here is a pic of the "MWBL Christmas Classic" -- the yearly HR derby for the MWBL.|
So it felt great to finally have a guys night out, and finally meet the guy who I already consider a really good friend, I think another reason everything flowed that evening, is because even though, we never saw each other out in public before that day, we had a general sense who the other guy was, we have chatted on line for hours on hours through our league activity, talking about baseball, our wives, the idea of us four (including our wives) getting together some time as well -- I think the fact that we bonded online, we knew we were friends, and are well-past the acquaintances phase. I really wasn't worried about meeting him, one bit.
Chris and I, were actually quite full from the wonderful steak & food we had at the restaurant, that we had our tournament at. I felt I could munch on a side of fries though, so I got a side of fries, while Chris and I had our own small pitchers of beer. It was definitely the feel of a guys night out, plenty of laughing, sharing stories, and never really wanting the evening to end; I had such a blast, that I nearly forgot about the wonderful time at the tournament -- it was two great events in one day for me. I know Chris said nearly as much.
I first applied for Stray's Mid-West Baseball League, seeking a BBW league, a league that I can compete with other fellow APBA owners, and by meeting new friends. Stray was seeking a league owner that plans to be a MWBL member for life; in the process I think we both gained a friend for life. I believe we get along so well, is that we have a mutual respect for one another, he has certainly took me under his wing in showing me how to go about things in the commissioner aspect for a BBW league.
|A unofficial, alternate logo of Stray's BoS team.|
Stray has a great way of balancing out friendships & the business aspect of the league. He doesn't show favoritism, he's a firm & balanced commissioner, and goes about his business with every owner the same way. In many ways, he probably expects more out of owners like me, who love the game as much as he does, while wanting the league to succeed as much as he does. I also respect the fact that he will call you out, if you screwed up, he has high expectations of his owners, he expects us to do our jobs and do our jobs right -- and rightfully so, he should want that. He wants the absolute best, because he is pouring his heart out into this wonderful league, a wonderful league which you get to run a baseball franchise in every aspect of being a General Manager -- Stray makes this possible with the Mid-West Baseball League.
Stray is the same way with life, and obviously with his friends. He's outgoing & has an obvious confidence in life, going after what he wants in life. He recently got a job working for Major League Baseball working with Statcast, in which he will have to work every home Detroit Tigers game -- Oh, Darn! Right?! He told us that he repeatedly try to apply for the job, had interviews, no luck, but he never gave up -- eventually his file fell into the hands of another guy, and it was that guy that could see his passion for the job. Stray is relentless, I think that's another reason he looks for this type of owner for the MWBL, he doesn't want an owner to just settle. He is going to work with me on being a better commissioner, I was flattered in the confidence he has in me on where my league would be in the future -- we both know things could be better, but it was a huge compliment when he told me that I will be where he is at in five years, and although I don't see myself ever duplicating his success in the MWBL, it is really good to be learning from the best & meeting a person with the same passion for the game of Baseball & APBA Baseball.
Through online conversations, we found out we were fans of each other's work before I ever joined the MWBL, he enjoyed my blog, The Boys of Summer, as I used to surf his MWBL site from time to time. The detail to every aspect of the game, made me daydream of being in such a league, never did I ever think I would be in a league so huge, and with such talent. By the way, one of the owners happens to be Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, you can also catch him on the MLB Network during MLB Draft coverage & the MLB Network's yearly Top 100 Prospects Countdown. It's truly an honor to be in Stray's leagues & he makes sure he gets the best with an impressive interview process. He's thorough, and by being thorough, the success of the league shows. Off the top of my head, I want to say he has been running the league since 1997.
Unfortunately, I didn't take the camera along with our ride to the bar, left it in Chris's rent-a-car. He explained a lot about the league to Chris, he talked about prior drafts, many of the specific rules of the league, and why some of his league rules will benefit my league as well. I got to express what my goals are for our league, and also talked about the latest MWBL Draft. We got to hang out for a few hours, I felt bad because Stray had a long drive back to Mount Clemens from Jackson ahead of him, he didn't mind though, he was having a blast as well, and it happened to be worth it.
This is the great thing about Baseball & APBA, it brings people together, and creates new friendships for life. I'm really thankful to be a friend of Stray's, and look forward to the future of our leagues, with plenty more conversations of APBA, Baseball & life ahead of us.
By the way, I had a really difficult time coming up with a title for his post, at one point I thought "The Stray Cats", then decided to go with "The Man Behind the Curtain", because it has been a privilege to get to know Stray, who happens to be the man behind the success of the Mid-West Baseball League.