Doug Wolter: Tom Hady not going gentle into that good night
You may have noticed that Tom Hady is still twirling baseballs for the Jackson Bulls amateur baseball team.
I certainly have noticed it. And I love it.
Almost a year ago, I wrote a story about Tom, who at 43 promised 2013 was going to be his last amateur season.
No doubt, he deserved to retire in style. Last season, the veteran pitcher tied and then surpassed Tom Schuller’s all-time record for victories in a Bulls uniform. And though some people probably didn’t believe it last July when Hady vowed that he was going to hang it up, he sounded pretty confident at the time. “I’m not gonna play again next year. It’s time for some of these younger guys to play the role. I’m old enough to be their dad,” he said.
Never mind that. Tom is back with the Bulls in ‘14.
“Yeah. He’s Brett Favre-ing us,” said teammate Andy Wolf Monday afternoon.
It seems that everybody is happy about it, too. Andy most definitely is. So is the Bulls’ manager, Scott Bahr.
“(Tom) is a leader by example. He’s definitely that,” said Bahr, who pointed out that when a team’s got a 44-year-old guy who lifts weights and runs every day, younger players have no excuse for complaining about their own aches and pains.
Hady can still pitch, too. He is part of a “main three” staff that also includes Ryan Rasche and Zach Copley.
You probably won’t see Tom in action for the next couple of weeks, though. He’s been given some time off due to soreness in his elbow and knees, because his teammates want him to be fresh for the playoff season.
There are a few reasons Hady chose to come back. Firstly, many friends and acquaintances encouraged him in the offseason at the Jackson car dealership where he works, enlivening his spirit. Secondly, after having been drafted in the postseason by Hadley and Luverne last year, he was reminded that he’s still highly regarded by his peers.
Besides that, Jackson lost in the first round of the 2013 playoffs to Minneota — the first time the Bulls failed to make the region tournament in 21 years. Who wants to exit the game on that kind of sour note?
Summing up, Hady remarks about the summer sport: “It’s fun. I get nervous every game I pitch in. ... Once I lose that, I know it’s time to quit.”
In reality, nervousness or not, Hady says he’s certain 2014 will really, positively, be his last with his beloved Bulls. If his elbow is healthy enough next summer, he hopes to play on a 35-and-over team.
Meanwhile, Jackson is enjoying another fine season. The team is 15-0 so far and doing everything well, according to Wolf. The pitching has been sharp, the defense has been sharp, and the Bulls are averaging 10 to 12 runs a game.
In an era when many amateur baseball teams rarely carry more than a couple of players in their mid-20s, the Bulls have a good mix of veterans to go along with players as young as 18. Besides Hady, the team is also led by Blaise Jacobson (36) and Wolf (35).
“It’s a good combination,” Wolf says. “The veterans get along with the young kids pretty well, and vice-versa.”
“The players we have in the dugout enjoy the game of baseball to a real high level. They appreciate the game of baseball and do things right,” says Bahr.
Speaking for myself, I sincerely wish Tom Hady — and all the other Tom Hadys out there — all the best. I know what it’s like to love a sport dearly and want to play it forever, and those who — thanks to good health and the support of teammates — are able to prolong their careers deserve a hardy thumbs-up.
Far too many outstanding players exit the stage before they’ve been used up so that younger guys can take their places. Heck, those young guys will get their opportunities soon enough.
But when it’s over for the vets, it’s really over. Why have nothing left but memories when there’s still fire in the belly?