Only one day until GRBL Championship Sunday.
Before a roundtable conversation with three amazing baseball minds, a few words with the sweet-swinging Commissioner of the GRBL, Tony Lewis.
What’s been the most rewarding part of this season?
I have been fortunate to have memorable baseball feats and accomplishments, this one ranks up there. I am very proud of what my staff has done. We wanted to give people a distraction from all the noise out there, and I think we did. To think we started with team names that were simple colors in Season I to where we are now, it’s amazing. From throwing concerts, a livestream show, over $1000 donated to area not for profits, all the way to trying to bring our community together with our team names now, I am just extremely proud.
I think the guys that get the chance to play in the league are equally proud. What are your future dreams for the GRBL?
I want to fill the stadium. I want to air our games on major broadcasts. I want the GRBL to be in metropolitan submarkets. I want a national tournament.
I want people to see the passion and hear the stories of the players involved. Is that too much? I really don’t think so.
I love those dreams! When will US Baseball Park install a retractable roof?
I would say if we can do all the things I said above, it’s not too far out there of an idea. But I will say we are only a guest of US Ballpark. They have done a fantastic job with reviving that stadium. We all owe Jeff Williams and his crew a debt of gratitude for what they have done with that place.
What do you do in the offseason?
Ha! I take considerable time off about thinking about anything GRBL related and spend some much needed time with family. I’m probably kidding myself as Kevin Robertson and I will probably brainstorm Season VI ideas before year end.
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This baseball roundtable is a meeting of the managerial minds, those experts who know the teams taking the field on Sunday for the final game of GRBL Season V. Meza and England have been with the league since its inception. This was Spitz’s third year as a manager and player, though he did play in one game in Season II.
Chris Meza (CM), first year manager of the Republic Locos.
Daniel England (DE), first year manager of Moon City Mavericks.
Courtney Spitz (CS), manager of the Nixa Suckers.
CM: When this pandemic rolled out and kind of shut everything down, Tony and his team did a great job, making tough, but very necessary decisions. Season V turned out to be a great season. You could tell, on the field and in the dugouts, everyone was happy they could be back between the white lines playing. I loved all the “rookies” we had this year. It shows how many people this league is reaching. I can only hope that it continues to grow.
CS: What a great year this has been! I enjoyed playing with my team so much and we really turned it on, but just a bit late. I truly felt we were one of the better teams in the league. Just a couple innings of defense each game bit us in the butt. To provide a platform for the game during this time we live in was something to remember.
What are the keys to the game for the Ducks?
CM: Can the Ducks control the strike zone? Can Clay Murphy, Jacob Colter, and Skyler Henson keep this high-powered offense to 4 runs or less, and win counts after two strikes? I don’t think it will take much offense from the Ducks to win this game if they can control the opposing offensive, but when they get aggressive and find themselves in quick two strike counts they will start to run out of outs fast. The Ducks need to be selective and control the strike zone offensively, be aggressive on pitches they can control, and pitches they can do damage with. Don’t play the guessing games with pitchers. Really lock-in mentally on pitches you can control. The final key is to make Chris Matlock throw more fastballs than sliders and take advantages of any defensive mistakes the Mets make.
DE: The keys for the Ducks are pitching and defense. They have two of the best pitchers in the league, Henson and Murphy. The Ducks pitchers need to mix their pitches and keep the Mets sluggers off balance. The Mets want to mash, so mixing up pitches will prevent them from sitting on fastballs. The Ducks also need a good performance from their middle man. Mark Blehm was used in that role last week and had a solid outing.
The Ducks need to execute on defense. You cannot give the Mets extra base runners and extra outs, they will make you pay. Having Murphy at 3rd, Kendrick at 1st, Broadstreet at SS is a solid infield. Tyler Jones and Waters roaming the outfield, defense should not be a problem.
CS: Keys for the Ducks will be pitching and hitting with runners in scoring position. Sounds cliché, but it’s true. Henson has to get off to a good start. They need strong innings out of him. Ideally, AK can have the lead before he tries to bridge the game to Murphy on the back end. In order to have the lead they need to capitalize on opportunities at the plate.
What are the keys to the game for the Mets?
CM: Take advantage of mistakes made from the opposing pitching staff. Can the Mets hit Skyler’s and Clay’s best pitches early in the count? Stay away from swinging at bad pitches. Can the pitching staff control their off-speed pitches for strikes on both sides of the strike zone? The Mets offense needs to be able to keep the line moving, keep people on base, and try and score in as many innings as possible. I really think if they can play really clean defense and have a few two-out timely hits, the Mets can walk away Howard Bell trophy winners.
DE: The Mets need to continue hit. Chaffin, Vargas, Yorks, Emery, Braschler, and Rodriguez make for one dangerous lineup to deal with.
The Mets also need good performances from the very experienced Chris Matlock and the beanball king, Chandler Veit. Vargas will probably fill the closing role. Vargas had an interesting approach last week. He seemed he was just flipping the ball up to the plate with very little velocity. Whatever Vargas was doing was very effective.
I believe the Mets will have Jared Braschler back this week. He is definitely a difference maker with his bat, defense, and baserunning skills.
I have also heard rumors that Jarrod White may be available for the Championship game. That could be an interesting twist. White definitely has the ability to be an impact player.
CS: Keys for the Mets will be early offense and solid defense. They need to get to Henson early and tack on some runs. They want the Ducks to play from behind in this game. Chaffin would love nothing more than to hand the ball to Vargas for a 3-6 out save.
How would you approach this game as a manager knowing you want everyone to see game action?
CM: If I was managing this game, I would try and make sure my team plays the cleanest defense. We’d have to be able to throw strikes and keep the hitters off balance. I want to maybe play some small ball when needed. I also want to make them make mistakes defensively so being aggressive taking extra bases. You also need to make sure the pitchers feel as comfortable as possible and not try and over throw, I also want to express to them how important it is to be able to live in the strike zone early with off speed. Eventually hitters will catch up to velocity so off speed in this league is where the money is made.
DE: This is one of the hardest, and most important task for a manager in the GRBL. As a manager you want your best players in the lineup every day, all the time. You have to be conscious of the business side of the league. Players pay to play, so everyone deserves playing time. If players don’t feel like they received value for their time and money they may not come back. No players equals no league. As the season plays out you see what your bench players can do and in what roles they will be most successful. When those situations present themselves, you are ready to plug in a bench guy. The ultimate goal is for everyone of your guys to feel like he played a role in winning a championship.
CS: Win. I am playing to win this game. I’m not super concerned with everyone getting their innings because at the end of the day, all these guys out there want a championship more than just an at bat or inning in the field.
Best baseball advice for Rob Neiss?
CM: Pitching, defense, and timely two out hitting wins championships. Not letting the little moments feel like Mt. Everest. Keep fighting until you can take advantage of a mistake, and control the things you can control attitude and effort.
Fun fact! Did you know the average MLB player has 20:18 vision!
DE: Mr. Neiss should return to SW Missouri so he can play in this league again. Rob is the person the GRBL needs.
CS: What he’s doing is working. Don’t change it. Always listen to Spitz.
Any random thoughts, observations, or things you’d like to see happen during the game.
CM: I would love to see a clean defensive game help determine the outcome. When mistakes are made, there is always the temptation to make excuses, “Well, if this wouldn’t have happened A, B, and C would have happened and we would have won that game.” I want to see it come down to the last few innings because that is when the true talent of each team shines and what they are really capable of doing.
DE: Unfortunately, I will be watching this Championship game from the stands. Former teammates and championship winners Kendrick and Jones are trying to get back to the winners circle. Former teammates Blehm, Vargas, and Matlock are trying to make it 2 in a row. I will be rooting for all of them to have a good game.
I’ve heard rumors that this may be Dayne Shoff’s last year. If that is true, I would like to see him hoist the trophy and ring the bell.
CS: I’m interested to see the pitching match ups. The Ducks clearly have the upper hand. We will see who performs better.
I hope Chaffin hits a nuke.
Your prediction for the final score?
CM: I think there will be some scoring, but it will come down to the back end of the bullpens. The Ducks have that advantage. I see this game ending 6-4 in favor of the Ducks.
DE: I’m going with the Ducks, 7-5.
CS: My prediction is Ducks win 6-4.
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The schedule for the final day of the GRBL is: