Amateur Baseball: Bulls' Hady still leading by example
JACKSON -- When Tom Hady says he's not going to play amateur baseball next year, in the back of your mind you're just not exactly sure he means it.
But that's what the 43-year-old Jackson Bulls veteran says, anyway, believe him or not.
"I'm not gonna play again next year," Hady said on the record this week. "It's time for some of these younger guys to play the role. A lot of these guys, I'm old enough to be their dad."
Hady spoke those words prior to Sunday's scheduled Bulls games against the Tracy Express and Pipestone A's, which is notable because the righthanded workhorse was scheduled to pitch that day in an attempt to tie former teammate Tom Schuller's all-time record for victories in a Bulls uniform.
That he did, going a complete seven innings to beat Tracy 9-2. He allowed four hits.
Whether Hady surpasses the record or not, he says he is determined to call it a career at the end of the 2013 season.
That's probably going to make more than a few amateur baseball fans unhappy.
Scott Bahr, longtime teammate and Gopher and First Nite League president, will be counted among them. Hady, said his friend and teammate, is a fast worker, a pitcher who can be counted on to throw strikes consistently.
"He's probably one of the top teammates ever. People love to show up at the ballpark when they know Tom's pitching," said Bahr: "Everybody knows that you gotta be ready to play. He's been Mr. Reliable."
Mr. Reliable graduated from Heron Lake-Okabena-Lakefield High School in 1988. He played two years with the Lakefield Giants and played for the Heron Lake Lakers from 1990 to 2001. From 2002 to the present, he's twirled with Jackson.
Not including the 2013 season, where he attached three more victories to his record, Hady sported a 60-44 mark with the Bulls. That includes 148 appearances and 127 starts, 783 innings pitched, 3,417 batters faced and 716 hits allowed. He walked 263 batters and struck out 551. He allowed 348 runs, just 243 of them that were earned (the Bulls struggled defensively for a few years, Bahr said). His earned run average was a solid 2.48 heading into 2013.
Hady, in fact, almost didn't return to play ball this summer. There were two main reasons he decided to come back for a final campaign. First, the memory of last season's performance in the state tournament haunted him (he hit the first batter he faced, then things got worse from there), and he didn't want it all to end that way. Second, in October of last year his mother died from the after-effects of a fall. She loved baseball, Tom said, loved the Minnesota Twins. Just months before she died, Tom had taken her to see her first game at Target Field.
"I wanted to play one more year for her," Hady said.
A couple of years ago, Hady suffered a devastating knee injury in a playoff game against Wilmont. Bahr remembers: "There was crying, there were tears, that a guy that played so many years would have to go out that way. ... Then he showed up in February or March and said, 'Let's go.'"
What happened was, Hady worked out on his own, without informing the team. He did his own rehabilitation work and began a weightlifting program.
The way Hady remembers it, he didn't go to the first few games of the next season. Then he showed up to watch.
"I just showed up and Scott said, 'You're pitching.'
"And I said, 'Let's go.'"
He threw about three innings just to see how it felt. It felt pretty good. In time, he felt even better. Stronger.
Hady says he still gets a twinge or two, but he feels confident again when he takes the mound.
Good thing, too, because even at his age --he turns 44 in September --the old veteran is not one to shy away from a challenge.
"His win total could be higher. We've reserved him for the toughest games," said Bahr.
"I like pitching against the better teams. I get up for it more," said Hady, who explained that he especially enjoys performing in state tournaments. He's played in three so far --in 2005, 2008 and 2012.
Hady, who says he tries to instill a good work ethic among his younger teammates "by my actions," credits three people for providing key help along his own way: Bahr, for giving him an opportunity with the Bulls; Schuller, who taught him much about pitching; and Tyrone Wacker, who has consistently offered useful advice.
Will he miss the action when he finally does hang up his spikes for good?
Replied Hady: "I'll definitely miss it. At first, I'll probably want to stay away, because if I come to the games I'll probably want to play."