The making of a Fall Classic MVP
"Can you hear me now?"
"I still get the most enjoyment watching them get excited about winning." Fernando DaSilva
Call to ex-minor leaguer Fernando DaSilva proves worthwhile for Cobras
By Chris Errington, MSBL On-Line
Jupiter, Fla. -- Tim Lobach has won tournament championships and his highlight reel over many Fall Classics has lots of diving catches and clutch hits, but one prize eluded him – an MVP award.
That changed at the 2011 Fall Classic in Jupiter, Fla. when the Delco (Delaware County Pa.) Cobras defeated the Chicago Grays two games to one in a best-of-three championship series. The 52-year-old outfielder had, in his own words, "a pretty solid tournament.” He was 2-for-3 in the Cobras' 12-8 game three victory, scored what proved to be the winning run of the game, and hit over .400 for the tournament, but the stat line didn't tell the entire story of the Cobras' title nor did it reveal the full reason why Lobach was named tournament MVP ."I'm sure making that call had a just a little to do with getting the MVP,” Lobach said slyly.
| Lobach was referring to a call he made to a pretty good pitcher by the name of
||Delco Cobra manager Mike Lieberman (left) presents MVP trophy to longtime Cobra Tim Lobach at Fall Classic in Jupiter, Fla. last November.
Fernando DaSilva – a hard-throwing right hander who lives in Seattle, Wash., and plays in the Puget Sound MSBL. The two met in 2009 while playing for they played together for the MSBL's South Florida Sea Dogs in Arizona.
The Cobras have entered the Fall Classic every year since the tournament opened in 1991. They won the 35 Central division in 2008. A week before the 2011 tournament, Lobach's phone rang. It was skipper Mike Lieberman with news that the expected roster of 15 was dwindling. "We were down to nine,” Lobach recalled. "I always knew you needed a good pitcher to get anywhere in the tournament and we needed a few extra arms. My good friend Rick Ackourey told me to call Fernando to pitch. We already had a place all paid for him to stay, but he needed a way to get him here.”
Lobach knew DaSilva and knew he'd be an asset, but he had to persuade Lieberman.
"Michael looked at me with a jaundiced eye,” Lobach said, "but he trusted me.”
That's because in DaSilva the Cobras had a bona fide ringer.
DaSilva, who lives in Seattle, grew up in Montreal, Canada. He played at the Baseball Academy of Canada – the country's highest amateur level - and earned a place on the Canada's 1991 Pan American Games team. Later that year was selected by the Expos in the 43rd round of the major league draft.
He played six seasons in the Montreal Expos' minor league organization and finished 50-44 with 499 strikeouts in 800 innings pitched.
Though excited by the opportunity, DaSilva had to sell the idea to his wife who was eight month's pregnant at the time. "I spoke to the wife and she said, ‘You might as well go ahead before we have the kid.' ” DaSilva said. "She had just gone to the doctor and he said everything was perfect, so I felt comfortable enough to be on a plane.”
With the logistics worked out, Lobach, credit card in hand, immediately purchased a round-trip airplane ticket for the righty and, in a matter of days, DaSilva was on a plane. Lobach and his dad met the team's new ace at West Palm Beach International Airport.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound DaSilva stays in baseball shape using the same exercises for his arm and body that he used during his six-year career in the Expos organization.
While his fastball may not always reach the low-to-mid 90s it once did while pitching for the AA Harrisburg (Pa.) Senators, he readily acknowledges his "ringer” status among MSBL teams and enjoys helping other guys try to win titles. The deal was that DaSilva would pitch if the team got to the finals, and he would roam the outfield during round robin play.
I know why [teams] want me [to play with them] and I'm OK with it,” DaSilva said. "If I see the team can win without me and someone else can experience the thrill of winning a tournament, I'm the first to push someone else to be able to play. I've done this my whole life. I don't need that high, because I want someone else to experience it.”
Still, it's nice to have a Fernando DaSilva in the lineup – pitching or otherwise.
"The first or second game, he hit a home run and he made some great throws, and that's when everyone was convinced,” Lobach said.
|DaSilva (center) celebrates with Cobras
||The Cobras finished round-robin play 5-0,
and then blasted the Raleigh Red Sox 8-2 to earn a spot in the championship series - and a chance at a title after back-to-back Fall Classic championship-game losses.
DaSilva had game one of the three game series against the Grays and didn't disappoint in a convincing 13-2 complete-game win. The Cobras dropped game two 7-4 to set up the rubber match.
"I told the guys that I was done by the third game and to go win it for themselves,” DaSilva said. Turns out he wasn't quite done. The Cobras were clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning and, with one out, the Grays had runners on first and third. DaSilva entered at that point and quickly notched a strikeout and a pop-up to short to end the threat. The Cobras scored three times in the top of the ninth, and DaSilva turned in a four-up-three-down ninth do seal the win.
The final out of the game was a running catch in right field by none other than Lobach.
For DaSilva, the victory meant a seventh MSBL tournament ring. He knew it was a first for others.
"They needed me to get a few outs at the end and we got them. For a lot of guys, this is it. This is the highest level they'll play and I get it. When they get to these tournaments and see the level of talent other teams have, it's cool for them to win it.
"I still get the most enjoyment watching them get excited about winning.”
Moments after the final out, Lobach was a unanimous choice for team MVP, an award he said he never expected, but fully appreciated.
And, as for that airline ticket he purchased?
"I never even thought about asking Fernando to pay me back,” Lobach said. "He'd already paid it back on the field.”