As I mentioned on The APBA Blog Facebook page, I’m bringing back the APBA Fan Profile series. It took a little hiatus but since it was pretty popular, you’ll start seeing more of them this year.
First up is Rich Zawadzki aka ‘Pastor Rich’. Those of you who frequent the APBA Baseball group on Facebook are most likely familiar with Pastor Rich (left) and his Great Teams of the Past tournament updates.
I’m actually grateful to Rich. He has always been helpful with suggestions for my Monster Card Monday feature and he certainly has an eye for a great looking APBA card. Rich is non-stop energetic, loves the games of baseball and APBA, and without a doubt has a kind heart.
Without further ado, here is my Q&A with Pastor Rich.
The APBA Blog: Rich, give us a little background on you.
Rich Zawadzki: Well, first of all, thank you so much for asking me to participate in the APBA Fan Profile.
I enjoy and appreciate your work on the APBA Blog, and your efforts through technology and through Social Media to connect APBA Players to one another.
My name is Rich Zawadzki. I am 41 years old and I live in Jackson, MI where I am the Senior Pastor of the Loomis Park Baptist Church. I am married (Kerry – 1996), and have 2 wonderful boys (Eric – 4 and Luke – 3) who love to “roll the dice” on “Daddy’s Baseball Game”.
I am an adopted only child who grew up in Westfield, MA. I was a 3-sport athlete all through school until graduation in 1990. In the fall of 1994, I was a drummer in a heavy metal band, and very happily living in the destructive lifestyle that goes along with it, when a concerned co-worker took a spiritual interest in me. In 1995, at Mountain View Baptist Church in Holyoke, MA, I trusted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. In 1997, my wife and I moved to Pontiac, MI where we both attended Midwestern Baptist College for the next 4 years. We then came back to New England in 2001, to minister in two smaller Independent Baptist Churches (in Holyoke, MA & New Hartford, CT) as a Youth Pastor and Associate Pastor while working a full-time job as an quality inspector for aircraft parts for the next 8 years. In 2009, the dear people of Loomis Park Baptist Church of Jackson, MI extended “the call” to me to be their Pastor (Full-Time), and my wife and I accepted. So, for the 2nd time in my life, my family and I moved from New England to Michigan.
Moving to Michigan has not transferred ANY of my sports allegiances. WE ARE TRUE NEW ENGLANDERS!
I root for the Boston Red Sox, the New England Patriots and strangely enough, the Nebraska Cornhuskers (since I was very young) in college football which has put me in a tough spot here since they moved to the Big 10.
TAB: When did you start playing APBA and how did you find out about the game?
RZ: I started playing APBA at my parents’ dining room table with my Dad. To the best of my recollection, I started playing in about 1979-1980. My Dad (Rich Sr.) was an extremely intelligent, self-taught (he could literally tell you from memory of any of the European dynasties) and analytical man, and I believe APBA appealed to these character traits. It was a hobby that he played for fun. I believe, but am not totally sure, that he discovered APBA Baseball through an ad in The Baseball Digest. He kept score on graph paper and kept the stats after every 3 games (as that is how many games that we could fit on a piece of graph paper) on this giant notepads of green engineering type of paper. I was just a little guy who was really beginning to love baseball, and of course, in the winter or bad weather, you couldn’t play. This was before, cable TV, DVD’s and video games (except pong). So, Dad would pull out this odd shaped yellow and purple box that said, “APBA MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL GAME” “YOU ARE THE MANAGER”, and he PATIENTLY taught me how to play, and really taught me so much about baseball itself (When to sacrifice bunt, when to bring the infield in, executing a double switch, keep score, print neatly, etc.) . He just invested time in me as he would stop and slowly explain the game to me. He had several seasons from the early 1970’s, the 1978 set (Guidry A&C 2XZ which card I still have), but we had the most fun with the 1986 set. Sadly, he passed away in 2009 at the tender age of 61, just 3 days after I became the Pastor at Loomis. Oh how I miss playing APBA with him!
TAB: What is your focus when it comes to APBA? Do you play primarily baseball? Basic game, Master Game or Baseball for Windows? Also, do you like to concentrate on particular eras?
RZ: I am an “Old-School” APBA Baseball Basic player (with dice, boards, pen & paper – stats on Excel Spreadsheet) exclusively. I tried Basketball in the late 1980’s and it just didn’t take. For me, it was just too much.
The first “project” that I ever worked on was with 3 other guys in high school in 1988. We played a Great Teams of The Past league (I believe about 30 games). I ended up winning with the 1927 Yankees against the 1946 Red Sox. The next project was in 1991, when a good friend of mine and I drafted two teams to play against the Original Franchise All-Stars. We drafted our 2 teams first (1921 Ruth to me – 1911 Cobb for him) and the drafted the other teams after. This is where the idea of the Honolulu Hitmen (The All-Time Best of The Best APBA Team) was born. Many a fun night was had in my room “rollin’ the dice”.
I have always enjoyed playing “The Best of The Best” (Original Franchise All-Stars, All-Time Greats A, B & C, Great Teams of The Past, etc.). Sadly, after about 1992, I really just stopped playing (See answer to first question). I sold most of my Dad’s old sets, as well as tons of teams that I had collected in the 1980’s (OFAS, GTOP, etc.). UGH! However, I kept my boards from 1986 and about 500 of “The Cream of the Crop” that I had collected over the years. They moved with my wife and I several times, though I did not play them, I just couldn’t get rid of them…thankfully.
TAB: I frequently read about your solitaire baseball projects on Facebook. What project are you currently working on?
RZ: As a Pastor, my time is very limited. My Church is kind enough to let me take Monday’s off, but I usually try to spend it with my family. There are many people to visit, much reading, Bible study, services to conduct, programs and special event, not to mention preparing 4 sermons a week. So really the only kind of projects that I can do, are solitaire projects. I would love to come to the convention and play in the tournament, but Sunday’s are “a work day” for a Pastor.
I really got back into APBA through Facebook. Through the APBA Baseball group. I connect with many players who would share what they were doing, and I started playing again.
Through EBAY I began buying sets (1981, 1988, 1979 World Series, 1994 Playoff teams, GTOP). Through reading of Dan Velderrain’s March Madness Tourney, I thought that’s something that I could do in my “spare time”.
In 2012, after rebuilding my previously sold collection of GTOP, I played 3 64-team single elimination tourneys (no stats). The 1st was won by the 1967 Red Sox on a walk-off by Tony C. The 2nd was one by the 1911 Giants and the 3rd was won by the 1969 Mets. Interestingly, the 1911 Philadelphia A’s have made it to the Final Four in all 3 tourneys.
I am currently 54 games into a single season 162 game schedule for 1 team, the Honolulu Hitmen (The All-Time Best of The Best APBA Team) against all (140 teams – and replaying the teams that beat the Hitmen) my GTOP.
The 25-man Hitmen consists of the following unbelievable players…
Ty Cobb – 1911, Mickey Cochrane – 1930, Joe Cronin – 1930, Joe DiMaggio – 1937 (Single Column), Hugh Duffy – 1894, Jimmie Foxx – 1932, Lou Gehrig – 1927 (Single Column), Josh Gibson – 1931, Rogers Hornsby – 1924, Nap Lajoie – 1901, Babe Ruth – 1921, Al Simmons – 1930, Sam Thompson – 1894, Pie Traynor – 1930, Honus Wagner – 1900, Ted Williams – 1941.
Walter Johnson – 1913, A&B (1 YZ)
Ed Walsh – 1908 A&B (2 YZ)
Ron Guidry – 1978 A&C (2 XZ)
Lefty Grove – 1931 A&C (1 YZ)
Grover Alexander – 1916 A&C (2 Z)
Smokey Joe Wood – 1912 A&B (2 XZ)
Sandy Koufax – 1966 A&C (1 XYZ)
Dennis Eckersley – 1990 A&B* (2 XZZ)
Bruce Sutter – 1977 A&C* (2 XYZ)
Currently the Hitmen are 48-6 and some of the stats are unreal. (Cobb has 32 steals and Gehrig has 93 RBI’s). I’m sure everybody has a player or two whom they’d like to add, but I feel that my club is “solid”.
TAB: As a pastor of your own church, do your parishioners know of your love of APBA Baseball? What kind of reactions do you get when you describe this game to them?
RZ: In my Church, there are all kinds of types of people. Some like working with their hands, some like hunting and fishing, and many have other hobbies. I have many times said that “To like APBA, you have to enjoy (but really love) baseball.” Many people in our Church have no clue that I love APBA. We do a game night at our Church a couple times a year where everyone brings their favorite board games. I bring APBA. We have a Church-Wide Campout one week a year. I bring APBA. Late last year, I had a bunch of the guys from our Church softball team over to my house for some pizza and wings and they played a little 8-team GTOP tourney. 1961 Yankees defeated the 1927 Yankees. I kept score and walked everybody through it. Most folks that I have showed it to are initially a bit intimidated by its complexity, but after they play, they are impressed by its simplicity.
TAB: You seem to be a connoisseur of APBA Baseball cards. What is your favorite APBA card of all time? Why?
RZ: Thank you! I used to think that the best card ever was a the 1930 Al Simmons (From the All Time Greats Team) with 7 on 31 & 51 and 6 on 55, followed very closely by the 1921 Babe Ruth (3 1’s and 8 14’s) and 1911 Ty Cobb (4 11’s & 5 31’s) depending on whether or not you wanted speed or power and on-base percentage.
However, having recently been exposed to the Original Single Column cards, I must conclude that the 1927 Lou Gehrig card is the greatest APBA Baseball card of all time. This card is just simply a monster. 1 on 11 & 66, 3 on 33, 5 on 22 & 44, 6 on 15 & 55, 7 on 25, 10 on 31 & 51. It also has a 41 on 32 and 5 14’s. It does have a weakness though…”A weakness for doubles.” A case could be made for the 1931 Josh Gibson card, with his speed too, but he has a J-4 injury rating, whereas, Gehrig has a J-0 and where Gibson is pure speculation…with Gehrig, the numbers are in! I have long maintained that Gehrig’s 1927 season is the greatest by any player in the long and storied history of baseball.
- .373 AVG
- 218 Hits
- 117 Extra Base Hits (52 2B, 18 3B, 47 HR)
- 175 RBIs (Amazing considering that Ruth cleared the bases 60 times right before he came up)
- 109 BB
- 10 SB
- .474 OBP
- .765 SLG
- 1.240 OPS
TAB: Finally, let’s get philosophical. As a man of the cloth, do you draw any analogies between religion and baseball?
RZ: As a Pastor and Preacher of the Gospel, the illustrations that baseball provides are seemingly endless.
- The sacrifice bunt (Giving yourself for the team)
- Doing your part within your ability (not everybody is a power hitter)
- The inerasable consequences of a slipup, mistake or bad decision (Curt Flood’s slip in 1968 World Series, Bill Bucker’s error in the 1986 World Series, etc.)
- The importance of the little things (Dave Robert’s steal in the 2004 ALCS)
- Perseverance and faithfulness (Cal Ripken’s streak)
- Grace when tragedies come (Lou Gehrig’s speech in 1939)
- Never giving up (2004 ALCS)
- Pride goeth before destruction (Goose Gossage thinking he could blow away Kirk Gibson in the 1984 World Series)
…and I could literally go on and on and on!
But really, there is one that I use over and over when leading people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and is the metaphor of HOME or being SAFE AT HOME. Just like in baseball, you have to touch every base, and once you step on the plate and come HOME…YOU’RE SAFE AT HOME. Biblically, to get Home (to Heaven), you got to personally touch…
1st Base – All mankind (including you and I) are sinners
(Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”)
2nd Base – All mankind (including you and I) owe the just payment for sin
(Romans 6:23A “For the wages of sin is death…”)
3rd Base – God loves all mankind (including you and I) and proved it by sending His Son, Jesus to die on the cross to make our payment for sin
(Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”)
(John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Home Plate – Any person (including you and I) can believe and ask God to save them from their sins, and when they do…they are SAFE AT HOME!
(Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”)
(John 10:28 “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”)
Thank you again for interviewing me for the APBA Fan Profile.
With affection and gratitude,
Rich Zawadzki – Senior Pastor, Loomis Park Baptist Church – Jackson, MI
I appreciate Rich’s time and effort in answering these questions. I’ve been familiar with my fair share of ministers in my life and knew if I chose Pastor Rich, he wouldn’t be at a loss for words. :) Thanks for the awesome interview, Rich!!