Monmouth Beach Fire Company Softball Champs Again

Monmouth Beach Fire Company Softball Champs Again

By Greg Kelly via

Photo Courtesy of Jack Flaherty

It’s a group of guys — going back 50 years now — who know how to play softball and win. The Monmouth Beach Fire Company softball team has won so many league championships they’ve lost count.  MBFC Softball — ’23 Champs.

I stopped at 15 when writing the volunteer fire company’s Centennial Journal in 2005. The guys continued to rule the base-paths, and today, it must be about 25 titles. Athletic, smart and driven, the “Beach Boys” don’t like losing. Turns out they don’t do it much.

Their long history of success — playing in different leagues — includes many undefeated seasons, plus another one in 2023. That’s back-to-back perfect seasons and four softball league titles in a row. The borough firemen are on a 36-game winning streak and claimed the title this month with 18-8 pounding of Middletown firefighters at Griffin Park.

Through the deployment of generational talent on the field — Schulz, Jones, Barham, Keller, Marsh, Kuhlthau — competitors sometimes wondered if Monmouth Beach had “procreated master ballplayers.” Borough firemen first started playing serious softball in 1971 for the Coast Firemen’s Softball League. Paul Kleiberg, a 1978 MBFC chief, managed those teams to 7 championships. Paul died in 1995 at age 45.

Since joining the Shore Firemen’s Sunday Morning Slow-Pitch Softball League in 1990, the team has always been around when the league playoffs start. John Schulz, Jr., a two-time MBFC chief and serious competitor, started managing the team in 1985. His sons Matt and Andy — good firemen and good athletes — carry on the competitive spirit. Monmouth Beach fireman Chris Marsh is currently the softball league president. His son, Matt Marsh, manages the team and is VP of the league. Another son, Josh Marsh, is also a solid fireman-ballplayer (they are part of four Marsh generations to serve in the MBFC).

“Winning takes talent, repeating takes character.”
—Coach John Wooden

Through the years the consensus opinion on the best home-run hitters includes Burt and Bill Barham, Kevin Dougherty and Lester Jones. The top pitchers have been John Schulz, Sr. (1970 MBFC chief) and Phil Kuhlthau (1996 MBFC chief) and his son Jay Kuhlthau, ably carries on the tradition. Schulz, Sr., who passed away in 1990, had several seasons with an undefeated record having pitched every inning. The current league trophy is named in his memory. John was also a Monmouth Beach First Aid Squad charter member in October 1958.

What’s their secret to softball success? “They take it very seriously and they know each other very well,” explained late local sports reporter, Jack Oakley, who covered the team for years. “The Monmouth Beach guys are a good all-around team — offensively and defensively,” said Jack, who was a Red Bank volunteer fireman for over 50 years. “Most are good athletes to begin with and they take care of themselves too.” Jack would be pleased to hear it’s still like that. During his 50-year sports journalism career, Jack worked for 10 newspapers in New Jersey before he died in July 2010 at age 79.