In its inaugural year, Veto rounded up 25 players – most of whom were Moline High School colleagues – to come out to Saukie Field in Rock Island to play sandlot style baseball. What started as eight guys having batting practice expanded to 10 guys playing “right field out” rules, and soon word of mouth was out and the league had enough players to play an entire field.
Veto recalls his high school pal Scott Boruff being so excited to play baseball that he asked, “When are we playing ‘Veto League’”? Needless to say, the name stuck.
The next three years didn’t see much growth in the league, as only 25 new players tried out the sandlot style baseball league. As Veto’s high school friends graduated and traveled away to college, he didn’t know if the league would survive, so he had to do something different to keep guys interested.
“This league changes every year. We’ve gone from cardboard beer boxes to actual bases. We’ve organized ourselves enough to have a set schedule with designated captains,” recalled Veto, “But the most influential and beneficial change was incorporating stats into our league.”
In 2002, Veto unveiled his box scores, which kept track of the lineup, at bats, hits, extra base hits, and runs batted in. In 2003, Veto League began tracking runs scored. Stats, box scores, and stories went onto Veto League’s Geocities website. These changes are no doubt why the participation in the VLB has soared over the next decade. In ’02-’03, 68 new players came out to try Veto League.
In 2004, Veto unveiled official Veto League jerseys. They were navy colored and cotton, and included “VETO LEAGUE” screened on the front and the players name/number on the back. In ’05, they began selling orange jerseys and hats.
Today, Veto League is host of its own web domain, www.thevlb.com, and is probably as organized as any sandlot baseball league in America. In 2011, Veto League played a record 63 games, featuring 101 players and 55 debuts – by far more than any other season.
This year marked the first year any other Vetos made it out to the ball park. Matt invited brothers Jason and Jim Jr., along with his father, Jim Sr. Said Sr., “It’s been many years since I’ve had the pleasure of playing basbeall with all three of my sons at the same time.” Veto made that work on a day the Vetos are sure to remember for years to come.
Matt Veto considers Veto League his greatest creation, but not because he’s been keeping it afloat for 14 years. Not because career stats have been tracked since 2002. Or because interest in the league has exploded with social networking facets Facebook, CraigsList, Twitter, and even e-mail (a new concept in 1998). Veto is responsible and deserves credit for the hundreds of new friendships that have sparked though his baseball league. Guys (and girls) who would have never known each other had it not been for the common interest in playing casual backyard baseball.
Midseason 2011, Veto announced his unofficial retirement from his own league. Moving on to bigger and better things, Veto married his best friend in September, then two weeks later moved to Columbus, Missouri, to focus on getting a Masters’ Degree at prestigious Mizzou.
Veto may not be around to play at all next year, but he left behind a legacy that will last an eternity. The way Veto played the game of baseball is unmatched by any other Veto Leaguer. Leaving the competitive side of sandlot baseball, Veto led by example and always had a smiles on his face. He taught myself and others to enjoy every day on the field. We play baseball not to win, but to have fun, get a little exercise, make ourselves better, and above all else, build lasting friendships.
As president of Veto League Baseball, I thank you, Matt Veto, for your countless hours of time, hundreds of dollars of your own money, unwavering patience, and infinite amount of heart you have given toward the league we all love. #9 will never be forgotten. You’re Hall of Fame in my book.