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Taking Sudbury out to the ball game

It was one last chance for the boys to have a little fun.
The Nickel City Nickels senior men’s hardball team is looking to put the sport back on the map in the north. Pictured from left are Ryan Mussen, Mike Baldisera and John Hajdukiewicz. Photo by Scott Haddow.

It was one last chance for the boys to have a little fun.

Rather than waste an opportunity to play ball, when a small group of members of the Nickel City Nickels senior men’s hardball squad got together at the Terry Fox complex for an interview on a cold and blistery October morning, they just couldn’t resist it. They had to get out on the field. 

With a fierce fall wind whipping across the diamond, the guys spread out and, within seconds, the sound of a baseball being cracked off a bat was heard. That was followed by good-natured jarring, laughing and smiles. 

And a lot more baseball. 

Such is the passion of the men who make up the Nickels. They come from different backgrounds. They each bring unique talents to the team. Heck, some even come from different cities, but are considered adopted sons of Sudbury. They come for the same reason: To play hard and to put Sudbury back on the baseball map.

“Without a doubt, the guys on this team are passionate about the game,” said second baseman Ryan Mussen. “It’s Oct. 26 and we’re having a homerun derby. We’re like 12-year-old kids.”

This was the Nickels’ inaugural season. The team was put together by Mussen and first baseman Chris Gagnon. It’s a mix of players from Greater Sudbury (eight), Ottawa (three) and Timmins (two). A big part of the team comes from the Laird Construction team that tore through the 2012 Sudbury Minor Baseball season undefeated. 

The Nickels entered two out-of-town tournaments and put on a show, compiling a 4-1 record and defeating the defending tournament champions in Peterborough and Whitby in the process.

A driving force behind the team creation was the fact the boys flat-out missed playing tournaments and felt empty without a senior travelling league, such as the defunct Northern Elite League. 

“The guys who play here, they bleed baseball,” Gagnon said. “No one knows who we are because they haven’t seen a senior team in our area in five or six years. 

“Our expectations weren’t huge. Our goal was to put Northern Ontario senior baseball back on the map. I feel we did accomplish it. We want to see travelling teams playing weekend series again. It can be done.”

The players on the Nickels are veterans of the game. They know they have a tough road to haul if their dreams are to be realized. They have years of experience under their belts. 

They love the game and want to play it as long as they can. And at the highest level. They are also proud of where they come from. It’s more than just baseball to them. It’s about representing their town — the fields where they grew up smacking dingers and learned to love the game. 

It’s only the start and everyone on the Nickels is ready for the challenge.

“Every guy is coming back to play next season,” Mussen said. “We did what we did this season because of our attitude on the field and our play. 

“It says a lot about the guys who play for the Nickels. We proved to ourselves we can compete and still have it.” 

The Nickels plan on being aggressive off the field to continue their push to have Northern Ontario ball firmly entrenched on the map and on the minds of people playing the game across the province. 

The No. 1 priority next year for the Nickels is to run a successful baseball tournament in Sudbury. They want to expose more younger players to the game.

“It means a lot to all of us to do this,” Gagnon said. “We’ve all been playing the game a long time. It’s time to give back and help it grow.”

The Nickels consist of John Hajdukiewicz, Mike Baldisera, Ryan Mussen, Chris Gagnon, Dustin Paquette, Chris Armstrong, Felix Septimo, Jamie Dallaire, Marc-Andre Lavoie, Cody Jackson, Matt Braumberger, Josh Marcon, Jamie Reive and Chris Montgomery. 

They all share the same passion. They all share the same goals. They all will be back playing next year, dedicated to keeping Sudbury baseball on the provincial map.