2016 Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame Inductee - Mike Dodig Jr.
Mike Dodig Jr.Updated Sunday March 20, 2016 by Saugerties Athletic Association.
Fiery, competitive, hard-nosed, multi-talented and a great teammate, are all used to describe not only a superb athlete, but also a person of success. All words attributed to one of the newest inductees into the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame, Mike E. Dodig Sr.. Said former College of St. Rose baseball teammate Mike Dittus, “Mike was the master link in the chain, there was nobody I enjoyed playing with more than him, a born leader, who refused to lose. You loved to play with him, but not against him.”
Born October 31, 1965 to Mike and Irene Dodig (both superb athletes in their own right as well as members of the SSHoF) Mike was destined for stardom. Said Mike of his parents, “They not only encouraged me in all my athletic endeavors, they sacrificed financially and most of all they sacrificed their time, and I will never forget that.” Mike's Uncle John and cousins Jeff and John, were also recent inductees of the SSHoF. Mike grew up playing on the fields and courts of Blue Mountain and recalls, “I had many, many cousins in the area, and we were all very close. We were like brothers and sisters, and we all loved sports. We played wiffle ball, basketball, football, you name it! We never had to look for anyone else to play with…we had a full team of just us.” Brother Randy, a gifted athlete as well, was always there to push big brother. “We were very competitive” said Mike of Randy, “but in a good way.”
Family is very important to Mike Dodig, and on September 16th 1989, Mike married the love of his life, Brenda (Deal), as they started their life together beginning a family of their own. Mike and Brenda were blessed with two children, Catherine (Caty) and Michael Jr.. Caty, the oldest, was a three sport star at SHS (softball, soccer and basketball) and is currently the varsity softball and soccer coach at Catskill High School, where she is a full time teacher. Mike Jr. was also a former three sport star at SHS (hockey, football, baseball) and was the 10th round pick of the Atlanta Braves in the 2012 Amateur Baseball Draft. Mike Jr. is currently a freshman at Morrisville State College, where he is coming off a successful season as an end and fullback for the Mustangs football team. As is obvious by the success of his children, Mike’s influence has played a huge part in their lives.
Mike E. Dodig’s athletic career began in 1974 with the Grasshopper League of the Saugerties Little League as an 8 year old with the ‘Reds’. He continued on to a prolific Little League career with the Cardinals under coaches Charlie Cavanagh and Tom Wilsey and manager Harold Wilsey (also a Sports Hall of Famer), as the Cardinals won league championships 4 consecutive years, with Mike, playing along side his brother Randy, never losing a regular season game. Mike was a Little League All-Star as both an 11 and 12 year old. In his final year, the All-Star team from Saugerties won the district and regional title, losing to Liverpool 8 to 7 in the NY State finals, a loss Mike says ‘still stings’ today. In the NYS semifinals, Saugerties met the powerful North Albany Little League team. Not given much of a chance to win, Saugerties drubbed North Albany 23 to 1. Mike pitched a 1 hitter and added 2 home runs and 7 RBI’s. In his Little League career, Mike hit over 50 home runs, including playoffs, All-Stars, and regular season games, a record that may never be beaten. At the Sauer Field at the time, anyone hitting a home run over the centerfield fence would receive a month of free sundaes from Stewarts. Mike did it 4 times; winning 120 sundaes. “They gave me every one of them,” said Mike. Also as a Little Leaguer, Mike played with the prestigious Kingston Moose All-Star Team as an 11 and 12 year old, losing in the NY State finals as an 11 year old. Following Little League, Mike continued to impress as a hitter and pitcher for the V.F.W., under Coach Gil Ricks in the Saugerties Babe Ruth League. As a Babe Ruther, Mike was a two time All-Star as he prepared to take his talents to the fields of Saugerties High School.
Mike played freshman baseball as an 8th grader, then took a year off due to injury. Coming back as a sophomore, Mike pitched to a 5 and 0 record for a Saugerties High School varsity team that won the MHAL as well as Section IX , and Region I/IX championships. “There were no state championships back then, so we went as far as we could.” Also on that team were fellow Hall of Famers Randy Nilsen, John Harris, Billy Schaffer and cousin Jeff Dodig. The Sawyer Varsity Baseball team won MHAL titles in each of the 3 years that Mike was a member, followed by trips to the Section IX finals in all 3 years. After his junior and senior seasons, Mike was rewarded for his accomplishments as a strong hitting first baseman and pitcher, by being named All MHAL and Daily Freeman All-Star in both years. After the high school season, Mike also played Legion baseball. Beginning play as a 14 year old and coached by his dad, Mike continued on with Legion until he was 18. Mike played 1st base, caught and pitched for the Legionnaires and his career was highlighted by a 1983 no-hitter against Melvin Rhodes Post. “I came within one pitch of a perfect game,” recalls Mike.
In 1983, Mike Dodig’s talents hit pay dirt as he received a full baseball scholarship to Santa Fe Community College, a division one junior college program in Gainesville, Florida. However after one year, Mike opted to return home and attend The College at Saint Rose in Albany and continue his academics and athletics there. Mike was an immediate starter for the Golden Knights playing 3 fall semesters and 2 springs. Playing 1st and 3rd base as well as pitching, Mike considered himself fortunate to be able to play under legendary St. Rose coach Bob Bellizzi. Said Mike, of coach Bellizzi, “He was a great man and mentor, he taught me many great life lessons and I am eternally grateful for the opportunities that he gave me.”
With the arrival of the Saugerties Dutchmen in 1980, Mike was part of a group of young talented players ready to transition from high school and Legion and take over the reigns of the now established franchise. Mike started his career with the Dutchmen in 1982 and played until 1987 where he played 1B, 3B, OF, DH and posted a career 300+ batting average, “Of all the Dodig’s that played for the Dutchmen, my cousin Jeff and I were the only ones to accomplish that,” said Mike smiling. In 1985 he was beat out for the batting title by fellow Sports Hall of Famer Tom Whittaker in the last game of the season, “No hard feelings Whit.” Mike added jokingly.
Mike’s pitching career was limited due to intermittent arm injuries throughout his baseball career, so the true extent of his pitching capabilities were never realized. Elbow surgery in the fall of 1985 proved unsuccessful. Said his former manager and Hall of Famer Rich Koegel, “I wished I could have seen him pitch, I had heard so many great things about him.” Hall of Famer, Iggy Maines added, “Mike was a bulldog, a real winner. He always wore number 13 and always carried 13 cents in his back pocket for good luck.”
In football, Mike played as a 9-10 year old for the Kingston Mercury and winning the league championship under Coach Ken Beesmer. While playing for the Kingston Mercury, Mike adds, “We defeated the Titans. They had never been beaten before in the history of the Youth Football League.” As an 11 and 12 year old, Mike joined a team run by a group of Saugerties sports enthusiasts, including John Bach, George Miller, Sal Misasi Jr., Jim Backus and Bob Craft, playing with the newly formed Saugerties Gemini Football program. There, Mike played offensive tackle, linebacker, and punter, as the fledgling gridiron program went undefeated both years.
At Saugerties High School, Mike played two years of freshman football, and one year of J.V. Football. Mike remembers his 9th grade JV experience and the collection of great players that went undefeated under Coach Gary Schnell. Mike recalls, “That team had possibly the best collection of athletes Saugerties has ever had on one team. It’s a shame that after that season many stopped playing football.“ In grades 10 and 11, Mike played offensive tackle and linebacker on some solid varsity squads anchored by fellow inductee Albert Riozzi and coached by Larry Neville.
Although his basketball participation was limited, Mike played hoop from age 9 thru 12, under his Uncle John, and Dad Mike. That team, the International House Nets, never lost a game. Mike was a solid defender, strong rebounder and consistent scorer, as the team was also anchored by, no surprise, brother Randy and cousin Jeff.
Mike Dodig’s accomplishments didn’t stop with team sports as his versatility and wide range of talents were recognized in a variety of other competitive sports. In 1978 Mike won the Ulster County Singles Tennis Championship as a 12 year old and then also teamed up with Cousin Jeff to take second place in doubles that same year. In competitive shooting, Mike, as a 12 year old, was the regional Daisy Air Gun Champion, 18 and under division. In 3-D archery, Mike competed in the 1992 I.B.O. World Championships, in Anniston, Alabama. As a successful motocross racer, Mike competed for over 20 years, highlighted by being a Senior Class District 34 high points Champion in 1999.
On the slopes, Mike skied competitively in the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons with the Hunter Mountain Racing Foundation Junior 1 Division for 16-18 year olds. In both 1982 and 1983, Mike’s skiing achievements earned him a ticket to compete in the Empire State Games, and in 1981-82 Mike qualified for the New York State Technical Alpine Team (Giant Slalom and Slalom) and also made the State Downhill Team, qualifying him for the Eastern Regionals. Topping off his competitive skiing credentials, in 1982-83 Mike had the distinction of qualifying for Junior Nationals which also qualified him for participation with the U.S. Junior Olympic Team. Mike never went to the Junior Olympics, opting instead to begin the High School baseball season. “I would have missed baseball practice so I had to prioritize.” Mike singled out Mr. Kevin Ture, his Ski race coach and mentor, for all his help and guidance during his competitive skiing days.
Probably Mike’s biggest athletic challenge came later in life and in unfamiliar and unchartered waters. With the opening of the Kiwanis Ice Arena, came the formation of the Saugerties Men’s Hockey League and in 2001, fellow Saugerties Police Officer Chris Helsmoortel pulled together a team made up of locals to form the ‘Dutch Tavern Rangers’. Mike Dodig, always up for a challenge, and more importantly up for the opportunity to play a game that he loved and followed his entire life, was one of the first to say “I’m in” and for four years played with the group of novice but determined skaters. Mike reminisces, “I loved having the opportunity to play competitive hockey and only wish that I had the chance to play as a youth. It’s a great sport!”
Mike Dodig has had many memorable coaches and inspirations throughout his career. “Certainly my dad was my greatest inspiration. He was a great teacher and coach and right next to him, my mom who gave me undying support. I’d also have to mention my uncles, John, Bob, and Steve for their encouragement and support, as well as my Uncle Gunter for being the driving force behind my skiing and shooting.” Mike also credits his SHS varsity baseball coach Tony Vizzie with teaching him the importance of discipline and practice.
As with all athletes, there is life outside the game. In 1988, Mike left Saint Rose College to enroll in the Police Academy. He became a Deputy Sherriff with the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department, and in 1992 transferred to the Saugerties Police Department, where he just recently retired after 21 plus exemplary years of service. He did 7 years on the Ulster County ERT (Swat Team) and was an F.B.I. certified weapons specialist instructor. Mike’s career as a law enforcement officer can best be remembered by his always pleasant yet professional demeanor as well as the fair and respectful way he treated the people he came in contact with.
Wanting to give back and stay involved in youth sports, the next phase of Mike’s sports involvement would begin. Mike’s coaching career began in 2000, coaching daughter Caty in the Saugerties Girls Major Softball League. He began coaching Saugerties Little League in 2002 and continued till 2014, only taking time out to coach his son for 3 years in Babe Ruth. Throughout his Little League involvement, Mike has always coached highly successful Little League All-Star teams, although he humbly admits he never won a league title. Following Little League Mike coached in the Saugerties Babe Ruth League, where he coached 3 All-Star teams that went to the State Championships. Twice his teams won the State Title, with his fourteen year old team going to the semis of the Eastern Regionals.
This year marks a new coaching challenge for Mike, as he will coach with the Saugerties Stallions of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Mike brings a lot to the table including knowledge of the game, an ‘old school’ respect for the game, and a knack for winning, and was the perfect choice for Stallions. Coaching at the college level is a challenge Mike eagerly looks forward to and you can rest assure, when Mike Dodig gets involved, you get nothing short of 110% .
So, there it is, a lifetime of athletic achievements, public service, and community involvement. If this was an application for employment, it would be answered by a letter saying “qualified” or perhaps even “over-qualified”. The Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame is proud to welcome a man of extraordinary achievements to its hallowed halls. Mike, your family, friends, and community are proud of your achievements and congratulate you on your well deserved induction into the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2016.