Tom Baker (right) discusses the upcoming draft with the members of the Shenandoah Major Minor League. Photo by Mike Zucconi

Alumni Reunite for “Love of the Game”

Baseball players fill seats, inspire songs, become talking points around the water cooler and, more importantly to a dozen Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) alumni, accumulate statistics.

For the past 30 years EMU alumni reunite to banter, share familial updates, and participate in an annual fantasy baseball league, “Shenandoah’s Major Minor League.”

“It’s great to see guys come back and the continuity we’ve had in the league has kept the energy up,” said Clair Mellinger ‘64, professor emeritus of biology and one of the longest tenured members of the league.

Watching the box scores

Shenandoah Valley Major Minor League members set up the big board with their teams, as currently constructed, before the April draft. The members fill in the board as players are selected during each round of the draft. Photo by Mike Zucconi

Fantasy baseball is a predominantly online game where statistics accumulated by all Major League Baseball players are tracked. Points are awarded in one format of fantasy baseball, Rotisserie, while the other format, Head-to-Head, tallies the total number of statistics in any one category, with the highest or lowest number winning, depending upon the rules, according to

“Having statistics available online makes it more efficient and keeps everyone involved on a daily basis, compared to when we had to snail mail everything and not receive updates for weeks,” said Tom Baker ‘81, former EMU men’s basketball coach and current physical education teacher at Lacey Spring Elementary School.

The EMU alumni draft features an auction system where players are selected based on dollar figures. While no actual money is exchanged for rights to the player, the auction-style bidding lends itself to “heckling on a price of a player and the possibilities to acquire a talented player,” says Mellinger.

“Shenandoah’s Major Minor League”

For Shenandoah’s Major Minor League, connections go deeper than a love of statistics. Eleven of the 12 “owners” either attended, graduated or taught at EMU. Several members were students when the league began in 1982.

The composition of the league members changed from year to year until the early 90’s when a majority of the current group joined. Some teams have co-owners, while others are run by a single member.

“We’re a core group of guys who just love baseball,” said Ted Swartz ’89, MDiv ’92, a professional comedian who is one of the leagues’ longest tenured members.

The league holds the annual draft on campus in April. Most members live around the Harrisonburg area. Brian Hill ‘92, MD, a urologist with Urology Specialists of Atlanta, LLC, has the farthest drive to attend the league draft, making an eight-hour commute.

In addition to Mellinger, Swartz, Baker and Hill, other league owners include: Ian Swartz (son of Ted); Mark Deavers ‘89; Phil Lehman ‘89; Lawson Yoder ‘91; Jeremy Nafziger ‘91; Rob Roeschley (former EMU baseball coach); Gary Messinger; Doug Friesen ‘91; and Mike Yoder ‘91.

Ron Vogt, the owner not personally connected to EMU, got connected when he worked with Doug Friesen at Philhaven Hospital in Mount Gretna, Pa.

Previous members of the league include John Horst, professor emeritus of physics, Jon Kauffman-Kennel, former manager of EMU’s public radio station, and Bill Hawk, former academic dean.

“Getting involved with the league renewed my interest in baseball, especially the National League,” said Mellinger. “I really enjoy the research involved in getting prepared for the annual auction.  I have read more baseball-related books and web articles than I should have in the past 20 years but it has been a very good source of entertainment and relaxation for me.

“It’s been great to keep connected and share a love for baseball.