Many amateur baseball leagues are out there to play a leisurely game; Fairfax County’s Federal Baseball League plays not just for the love of the game but for the character that such competition can build.
Founded Jan. 1, 2014, the Federal League was created by a group of coaches and managers who wanted to honor the game by bringing it back to its roots of respect for opponents and rules. The league also strives to compete hard with class, character, and sportsmanship, or as the League’s President Kevin McGuiney puts it “to play the game the right way.”
The Federal League came to be as teams from other amateur leagues decided to pursue the philosophy of how to play baseball. Many of the players who make up the league had played on collegiate teams making the level of competition high. The league started out with eight teams and has fluctuated between eight and 12 teams throughout its eight-year history.
“In mid-2013 the league’s founders decided we had a good concept for the league which looked out for managers,” said McGuiney. “It’s a manager’s league, we knew what we were looking for being managers and coaches ourselves.”
Because many local high school and youth coaches are on the field they can absorb ideas and bring those ideas back to their own coaching and eventually bring other players from their teams into the league.
In explaining the name of the league, McGuiney says that it came about for two reasons, the first was that they wanted something to pay tribute to the local area which is home to many in the federal government and tie it into the region. The second reason was as a reference to the previous Federal League which split off from other leagues like we did.
The league also names its teams after other major and minor league teams such as the Orioles, the Senators, and the Flying Squirrels in another nod to the piecemeal way the original league came together.
The league’s regular season of play runs from April until mid-September and they play at high school fields in places like Oakton, Langley, and Montgomery County, Md.. The end of the season brings a double-elimination playoff that narrows down to the final game where a best of three series is played to determine a champion.
Unlike other amateur leagues, the Feds use wooden bats in their games instead of aluminum bats, much like they do in the majors. McGuiney, like the league, feels that the metal bats make the ball too easy to hit and inflates the player statistics. In their eyes, the wooden bat is a marker of skill and ability.
The Federal League was one of the few amateur sports leagues that was still able to play through last year’s coronavirus pandemic. As part of the larger Fairfax County Baseball Council, the league was able to come up with protocols and guidelines from the health department in order to keep playing. The league had no outbreaks and ended up being a lifesaver for players and spectators.
“Tons of guys said it meant a lot to play a season, just get out and play a game. Social distancing is built into the game and wearing masks allowed us to continue playing. We got a late start in June but we were able to go,” said McGuiney.
The league is currently looking for more players and offers flexible packages for those who can only devote so much time.
“People have families and jobs that may not allow them to play all the time. We want to make things as flexible as possible for anyone who wants to come in and play,” said McGuiney.
The original Federal League was founded in 1913 as a third major league after the establishment of the National and American Leagues. The Fed League pulled teams and players from other leagues including the two that would eventually make up Major League Baseball. While the league itself would only last from 1914 to 1915 it left a legacy that can still be seen today. Chicago’s Wrigley Field, which is today the home of the Cubs, was originally built as the home field of the Federal League’s Chicago Whalers.
The league was also at the center of a federal lawsuit in 1922 where they took the National League to court accusing them of conspiring to monopolize baseball by destroying the Federal League under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. When the league folded in 1915 many clubs and owners were bought out by other leagues creating an air of distrust and leading to the lawsuit which would be decided in favor of the National League when the Supreme Court decided they were not subject to the anti-trust act.
Anyone who is interested in joining the league can go to Fedball.com to sign up. Those who sign will be on a player waiting list where teams will review baseball resumes. Applicants can then be claimed by waiver or by free agency if not picked up right away.