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Lepez, Wemple and Zeiser: MSBL Comeback Stories to Remember

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications 

Submitted by Dick Giberti, Redwood Empire Baseball League

I believe I have the perfect candidate for addition to your stories on comeback players.  His name is Dan Lepez (known as Dano). He is 65 and has been a member of MSBL since 1989, as well as a member of Redwood Empire Baseball League (R.E.B.L.) since its inception over 20 years ago. He is a right handed catcher and had his right shoulder repaired in 2008 and never missed showing up to every game to keep stats, coach, or do whatever necessary.

He was the catcher for our 2008 MSBL World Series team and caught in all games prior to surgery at the end of season. His back always bothered him with pain and was always on meds but always showed up to games to help out and played in pain when needed. He paid his fees every year for the league and World Series even though he could not play and showed up for every game, at times in a wheel chair. Finally in November of 2014 after the league and World Series concluded he had L-4 and L-5 fused on his spinal column and had a plate installed. He was looking forward to the 2015 season as finally being pain free.

Three months later the pain was so bad in his right hip that he had to have a hip replacement. That year, even though he was on major rehab for his hip, he managed once again to show up to all games in a wheel chair or crutches and came with me to the Las Vegas Kickoff Classic in 2015 and the World Series in 2015. He was rehabbing and not playing yet always paying full fees.

He also had big time Diabetes and had to lose 40 pounds during the rehab. He did all this for the love of baseball and this year he went as a healthy player with the Ports to the Vegas Kickoff Classic and is having a tremendous season in the REBL 55+ division catching and batting over .333. He will be going with me once again to the World Series with the Ports team in the 65+ Central division.

Dano’s home was involved in the huge Lake County Fires this year yet he still commuted to every game until he was forced to move 250 miles south halfway thru the 2016 season to Paso Robles, California.  Amazingly, he has not missed the last eight games since moving. He drives the 250 miles on a Saturday night and stays over with a friend and returns home after the game on Sunday, a 10 hour Roundtrip. He is a friend, a ballplayer and a baseball warrior. He is an inspiration to all of us that love this game of baseball.

In his spare time he helps coach baseball at San Quentin, providing classes for umpire skills of those inmates that might need work after leaving prison. (San Quentin A's team picture on left)  He also hired two of the prisoners at his company when they were released and they are still working for him and are good members of their communities. Part of his job before retiring included environment related duties by cleaning up bird nests under bridges along Hwy 101.  While doing this he frequently came across homeless families and took them as adopted families and every year took up collections to provide warm clothing, blankets and food.  I am proud to call Dano my friend and also proud to be his manager.

Submitted by Warren Zeiser

I am a proud member of the Niskayuna Warriors of the Capital District MSBL in New York. I am 49 years old and we play in the 45-over division. 

Back in June of 2015 I had a pretty bad collision with a teammate during a game. As the shortstop, I was going back on fly ball to shallow center and the center fielder was charging in as well. I dove backwards in an attempt to catch the ball and the center fielder tried to jump over me and hit my face with his bent knee. My jaw was broken in several places and I lost six teeth on the field that day. I had my mouth wired shut for six weeks and lost 20 pounds in the process. I've gone through about a dozen surgeries and am now the proud owner of several titanium plates in my lower and upper jaw.

I still have a few more surgeries to go 14 months later, but we are in the home stretch and I am recovering nicely. Nonetheless I was back on the field seven weeks after the accident, much to my wife's dismay. (She actually refused to wash my uniform for the rest of the season in protest). She also happened to show up at my second game back to see what I was up to and unfortunately witnessed a headfirst slide into second and into home as well. Needless to say I slept on the couch that night.

Virtually every one of my teammates contacted me regularly while I was in the hospital and at home recovering. I can't say enough about the great group of guys on my team and the camaraderie we share. They are Simply the Best!

Contributed by Alexander Wemple, Eugune (OR) MSBL

My name is Alexander Wemple and I play in the Eugene MSBL for the Cardinals in the 25-over division.  I am 35 years old and am writing to say that baseball has helped me stay hopeful.  In 2001 I nearly died from a faulty snowboarding jump at Mt. Bachelor. I caught way too much air (about 100 feet), overshot the landing zone and shattered myself pretty good on an upslope of solid ice. I burst my t-12, broke my arm and wrist, fractured my jaw teeth and skull, and received a concussion that knocked me unconscious, causing a traumatic brain injury.

Although those life-long injuries have been a nightmare, I am happy to be alive every day. I love baseball, I dream about baseball and this year have gotten back into it to combat my depression and to help stay active and inspired so I don't stay in bed all day.  Baseball playing also helps my circulation and tends to help with my headaches.  It helps me stay more social with my teammates, too. Baseball increases my communication skills on and off the field by being more vocal. I think it even helps with my arthritis and spinal stenosis, despite being sore, achy and tired for a week or two following a game. I am pretty sure I would be worse off if I did not play ball.

This past weekend I hit a line drive back up the middle on a fastball and it sounded good and felt even better. Even though we ended up losing the game, that hit made my day and has helped lift my spirits because I overcame so many obstacles to get back playing again and it felt great to make solid contact again.

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