Old-fashioned company team thrives in Hopkins

Sports Editor

Remember the 1960s and 1970s when company softball teams reigned supreme throughout the Twin Cities?

Manager Nathan Wade of the Digi International men’s slowpitch softball team does it all for his club. He coaches, hits, fields and carries the equipment bag. (Sun Sailor staff photo by John Sherman)
Manager Nathan Wade of the Digi International men’s slowpitch softball team does it all for his club. He coaches, hits, fields and carries the equipment bag. (Sun Sailor staff photo by John Sherman)

In the now generation, there aren’t many of them left. Most teams in this millennium are formed through recruiting, rather than employment affiliation.

One exception in the Tuesday Night Men’s League at Central Park in Hopkins is Digi International.

The team is formed from employees of the company.

“This is my first year as manager,” said Nathan Wade, who is also a player for Digi International. “Our common bond is that we all work together.”

The company has 536 employees, and one of the drawbacks in forming a softball team is that many of those employees are past their softball prime.

“We have some guys who were good softball players 10-15 years ago,” said player Joe Mladek. “Our company is so stable that many people stay at least 10-20 years.”

Digi International has seen vast improvement this season.

“We’ve won more games this season than we’ve won the last 2-3 years combined,” said Mladek.

What’s the secret behind that improvement?

“I would say commitment,” Wade commented. “We have had a half-dozen really great practices this year.”

Despite the improvement, Digi International lost to Park Tavern 11-4 July 26 in the last tune-up game prior to the league playoffs.

Aaron Neubauer hit a key two-run single in the bottom of the sixth to give Park Tavern an 11-2 lead. Digi International tried to rally in the top of the seventh and did manage two more runs before the final out was made.

With the victory, Park Tavern improved to 5-7 overall.

“We’re just like the Twins,” said Randy Dallmann, one of the mainstays for Park Tavern. “We’ve won some close ones, we’ve lost some close ones.”

Dallmann, who owns Penguin Pools, is one of the co-sponsors of the Park Tavern team.

Although Big Ten Silver and the Ball Busters are co-favorites in the playoffs with Mainstreet Bar & Grill also in the mix, Digi International and Park Tavern have emerged as teams to watch.

“We’re good enough to compete with anybody in the league,” said Digi International’s Wade. “We beat the best team in the league [Big Ten Silver] in nine innings, but in another game with them we lost by the 10-run rule. Beating Big Ten Silver is probably the highlight of my softball career so far.”

Moreover, that win proved that a good old-fashioned company softball team is doing just fine in one of the west metro area’s most competitive leagues.

Contact John Sherman at [email protected]