Saad was flying to a utilities conference in Indianapolis in the summer of 1988 when he came across an article in Sports Illustrated about Steve Sigler, a Long Islander who worked as chief finance officer for a backpack manufacturer.
Sigler had played a little college baseball. He still had an itch for the game. And after pulling together some Little League dads for a game, he was sold on amateur baseball. A notice in a local newspaper led to a four-team league. A year later, there were 17.
After the SI piece ran, he was inundated. "That was before call waiting," Sigler later told Cigar Aficionado. "I'd hang up one call and the next would come within seconds. The mailman arrived with sacks of mail."
The Men's Senior Baseball League was off and running. The group held its first World Series that fall. Multiple age divisions, wooden bat leagues, and father-son teams sprouted later.
Sigler, now the full-time CEO of MSBL, oversees a sprawling network of 325 local leagues, 3200 teams, and 45,000 players these days, with national tourneys every year in Arizona, California, Florida, and Nevada.
Saad says he first heard about the Rhode Island iteration of the league a few months after his business trip when he saw an advertisement in the East Providence Post soliciting players.
In the spring, he reported to a Barrington church on a Saturday for the Rhode Island Senior Men's Baseball League draft. He was selected by the Providence Grays and, the next day, shipped to the Blackstone Valley Athletics for left-handed first baseman Joe O'Neil. By 1993, he had replaced RISMBL founder Eric Simonsen as player-president. And the league quickly expanded, adding 38-plus (now 42-plus) and 50-plus divisions over time.
Twelve years ago, Saad pushed for a shift from aluminum to more traditional wooden bats; Barnstable Bat, on Cape Cod, was still making the Jackie Robinson model.
Saad clearly prizes the league's organizational achievements. RISMBL recently absorbed the Rhode Island Amateur Baseball League, an 18-plus outfit that will start playing under the RISMBL banner next year. And Saad hopes to run his first television advertisement in the coming months.
But it is the game and its characters — charming and rogue — that get him most animated.
There was Curt Varone, the former Providence deputy assistant fire chief, who was a long-time manager in the league. A "miserable, Billy Martin-type," he routinely instructed his pitchers to throw behind batters in a bid to intimidate. Once, he insisted Saad pitch in a game even though he'd broken his nose in batting practice.
Saad says he learned volumes from the man.
There was catcher Johnny Lickert, who played a single game for the Red Sox in the strike-shortened 1981 season. Fifteen years later, Saad says, Lickert was rounding third base for a Rhode Island team at the Men's Senior Baseball League World Series in Arizona when he deliberately tripped over the third baseman's leg and claimed interference.
The run counted and the team advanced to the finals.
And there was the six-hour, 16-inning showdown between the Rhode Island Mariners and the Grays that ended with Saad, who pitched the whole game for the Mariners, giving up the winning hit to Providence Journal reporter Dan Barry, who would go on to work for the New York Times.