At 57, athlete competes in two baseball leagues
Mike Nadeau wasn’t planning on starting the regular season finale.
The veteran player for the Byron Braves strained his right biceps while moving a piano two days earlier. But the Braves had exactly nine players to start the game, so Nadeau loosened up, trotted out to first base and played through the pain until a 10th player arrived.
“(Manager) Jimmy Krier was shaking his head,” Nadeau said. “I told him, ‘Hey, I’ll sign a waiver. I’m OK.’”
Nadeau’s contribution helped the Braves beat the Rochester Merchants 14-8 to secure the third seed in the Hiawatha Senior Baseball League’s playoffs, which opens Sunday at the Rochester Baseball Complex. That kind of dedication is typical of Nadeau, who at 57, is one of the elder statesmen in the 25-and-older league that plays weekly in Rochester, Byron, Pine Island, Chatfield and Austin.
“Mike is usually one of the first to arrive at a game, so I’ve enjoyed spending that time with him,” said Krier, who has been teammates with Nadeau since 2006. “He always finds time to get some swings in. If we don’t get anyone there to go down to the batting cage, he will go off by himself and toss up balls and hit.”
At an age where most weekend athletes have retreated to watching games from the bleachers, Nadeau is not only active in the Hiawatha Senior Baseball League, he also is a regular player for the Webster Wildcats in the Minnesota 50+ Baseball League. He usually plays catcher or first base for the Braves. He is a utility player for the Wildcats, often catching or pitching.
To stay in shape for his demanding baseball schedule, Nadeau has a daily workout goal of 30 minutes to 75 minutes, alternating between lifting free weights and jogging a couple of miles.
The biceps injury is an occupation hazard for Nadeau, who owns Mike’s Complete Piano Service, where he restores and tunes pianos after retiring from a 23-year teaching career. He studied piano maintenance under a choir director at the church where Nadeau’s father served as a pastor. In his spare time, he writes songs and plays an occasional gig with area bands.
Nadeau, who grew up in Rutland, Vt., came to Minnesota in 1979 to attend Augsburg College, where he majored in music education. He started playing amateur baseball in 1985 when teaching in the Grand Rapids area. He moved to Southeast Minnesota in 1998 and played for the Plainview Bucks until 2010.
He joined the Wildcats when he turned 50. That summer he played in three leagues, zig-zagging between Byron, Plainview and Webster.
“I played something like 56 ballgames that year, and I caught about half of them,” Nadeau said. “I was really getting after it.”
NOT DONE YET
Nadeau, who managed teams in Grand Rapids and Plainview, and coached ninth- and 10th-grade baseball at Mayo High School, would like to organize a Rochester-area team to play in the Minnesota 50+ League, which currently has 23 teams competing in an 18-week season from June through early October.
If that weren’t enough, Nadeau plans to travel to Fort Myers, Fla., this November to play in the Roy Hobbs World Series, a 250-team national tournament.
Clearly, Nadeau’s passion for baseball hasn’t diminished.
“I still play for the love of the game and camaraderie with my teammates and opponents,” Nadeau said, adding with a cackle, “and even the umpires once in a while.”
Krier said Nadeau’s influence extends beyond the field, keeping his teammates loose with banter in the dugout.
“Mike’s very good at encouraging everyone,” Krier said, “and always keeps the mood light with a great sense of humor.”
Krier said he was flattered when Nadeau asked to join the Braves before the 2006 season.
“I know it’s cliché to talk about playing the game the ‘right way,’ but I take pride into thinking we do that for the most part,” Krier said. “Mike, as well as most members of our team, take our play seriously, but at the same time we know that we are there just to have fun and play the game we love.”
It’s that love that keeps Nadeau playing. Besides the joy of being on the field, there’s also a family inspiration.
“I’m hoping to play for Byron for a few more years, so my stepson Brandon Stevens (who’s 23) can join us,” Nadeau said. “Hopefully, I can catch one of the games he pitches.”