2016 Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame Inductee - Mike Hasenbalg
Michael C. HasenbalgUpdated Sunday March 20, 2016 by Saugerties Athletic Association.
2016 Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame - Michael C. Hasenbalg
A point guard must excel in a variety of ways in order to rise to a level of greatness. Leadership, proficiency in ball handling and shooting, good instincts, and athleticism are at the core of this success and when those attributes are combined with intelligence, unselfishness, and a relentless desire to excel, not only does this describes the athletic attributes but also the personal and professional essence of an individual we honor this year as a Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Mike Hasenbalg.
Born February 12, 1965, to Ralph and Francoise Hasenbalg, Mike felt extremely blessed to have parents like his. Mike recalls, “They were the epitome of “all in “parents. Their love for each other, along with their commitment to us and the manner in which they raised four very active boys and one athletic girl in such a positive and loving family atmosphere still amazes me when I reflect upon it today. My mom’s unconditional love along with her ability to keep it all organized was the glue that made it all work. Every day it seemed there were dirty uniforms to be washed, practice, and game schedules to follow, chauffeuring back and forth, volunteering at concession stands, rotating dinner schedules, along with making sure we were on top of our school work and other projects. We had friends over constantly and they were always received with a warm welcoming smile and good food, of course.”
“My Dad led by example with his incredibly consistent positive attitude and “glass half-full” outlook. Even though he taught us the philosophy, “results not excuses “, he was easy going and understanding. He had a passion for sports and was a tremendous athlete himself. He played basketball and golf at RPI and was captain of both teams. He was our “first coach” and very involved and active with us. When he was not working, he would spend hours with us shooting hoops, playing catch, ping-pong, or shooting pool, and of course rarely missed any of our games. With me, he had a unique ability to give constructive feedback on my performance that was so edifying. Even when he was pointing out areas of improvement, I could sense his belief in me. He had such a gift of encouragement.” He had high expectations for how we carried ourselves with our teammates and coaches. That was even more important than my performance during the game. He taught us that having a coachable attitude and being able to accept feedback, were keys to reaching our potential in sports and in life. My best memories were the ride home from games and rehashing the details with him – our version of “game films.”
Growing up in the Windemere area of Barclay Heights with brothers Norm, Marc, Scott and sister Linda, they, along with other neighborhood kids, would gather at the “big tree” on Edith Avenue to plan the daily sports activities. “Our house was set up perfectly for sports and other competitive games. It was hoops and wiffle-ball in the driveway, a yard that we turned into a football field that was about 30 yards long on the side of the house, and in the garage were pool and ping-pong tables. There was always a competition or some contest with each other, as well as the neighborhood kids that would join us,” said Mike.
“We were within walking distance to the bowling alley and my brother Marc and I bowled in leagues together for years winning many local tournaments and league championships. One year we fell just 10 pins short of winning the NY State Championship. Great memories with him at “The Bowlers Club “and swimming at the IBM Rec Center during the summer.”
“Other than my Dad”, said Mike, “My brother Norm had the biggest impact on me as an athlete. Even though he was 7 years older than me, he knew I loved sports and had some natural ability, so at an early age he just took me under his wing. We played thousands of hours of one-on-one hoops in our driveway – sometimes we would even play to 500 “win by 2.” He made me work hard to compete with him as it took me a lot of years before I was finally able to beat him. His belief in me made a big difference in my confidence.”
“My sister Linda was just one grade behind me and trying to keep up with her older brothers probably helped become arguably the best athlete in the family. That is still a fun debate to have when we all get together. She was All-League in the MHAL in both Basketball and Softball and top league average in bowling. She was an incredible shortstop, and started for 5 years on the SHS Varsity Team starting in the 8th grade and contributing to several MHAL titles.”
“I enjoyed competing with my younger brother Scott as well. He was 7 years younger than me but had a love of sports at an early age as well, and developed into the most accomplished athlete in the family at the college level. Though he suffered through some serious injuries to both wrists in Jr. High school, which ended his ability to play competitive baseball, he continued to work hard and ended up having an outstanding basketball and golf career in college, one of the best three point shooters ever to play for SUNY New Paltz.”
Mike’s passion was basketball. His career began in both the Biddy and CYO leagues. In Biddy League under Coach Ray Mayday, Mike was a two time All-Star as a point guard averaging 34 points per game in his final year. “Ray Mayday coached me for three years in Biddy League and three years in Babe Ruth. Like so many of my coaches, he had great commitment and loved the competition. As an adult, we became neighbors when my wife Beth and I bought a house in his neighborhood, and before his passing we had some fun conversations going down memory lane.“
Mike played 3 years of CYO basketball under Coaches Butch Tomaseski and Charlie Cavanagh. “It was my first experience on the big court at “The Audit” (Donlon Auditorium). They both made the game fun, as it was my first experience playing other schools outside of Saugerties. Everyone considered it a badge of honor to have Charlie Cavanagh end his instruction with “You Big Banana,” Mike said with a big smile.
In 1977 Mike was the point guard on the Kingston Moose All-Star Team that won the NY State Championship under Coach Art Altheiser, said Mike “He had a militaristic style and was tough. It was my first experience learning set plays and an offensive system. We won the NY State Championship with blow out victories in every game. More than half the team ended up later as All-League High School players and college players.”
Progressing in ability from year to year, Mike took his emerging talent to the hardwoods of Saugerties High School, playing two years of Freshman Basketball under Coaches Len Barlow and John Speirs. Mike led the team in steals and assists and was 2nd in scoring. He was the team captain of the 1980 squad, a team that had the best record in the MHAL. Mike said admiringly, “Len Barlow coached the freshman teams and despite being much smaller than everyone else, I made the cut as a 7th grader and he saw enough ability in me to eventually make me a starter. It was a big step in my development as a player.”
In 1981 as a sophomore point guard on the MHAL best record JV squad, Mike was voted team captain and led the team in assists, steals, and scoring.
Moving up to varsity, Mike played two years of basketball under head coaches Mike Goodman and then John Speirs. A team playing together since they were freshman, then adding future all time SHS scoring leader Steve Freer, the basketball program really took off. Both years Mike led the team in assists and steals and was second in scoring. He was an All-League nomination, a team Co-Captain, and team Co-MVP. In the two years playing in the Onteora Holiday Tournament, he was an All-Star in 1982 and the MVP of the 1983 tourney. The 1983 team started out the season 7 and 0 under Mike’s leadership, and was on track to win the league title. In a game against Fallsburgh, Mike, while attempting to dribble and split the defense, injured his leg. Staying in the game, Mike hobbled to the foul line and made both free throws however then had to be taken out of the game. Unfortunately it was later discovered that Mike had broken his tibia and that the Sawyers would have to face continuing their season without their floor leader. The team went on to lose seven straight games after Mike’s season ending injury however after regaining their “sea legs” and now led by fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Dodig and the guard play of John O’Reilly, the Sawyer hoop team found a way to go on to sectional play that year without their star point guard.
Said Mike of his coaches, “Mike Goodman had a unique personality and coaching style, he really would get into the details of the fundamentals and different drills to improve our skills. He saw potential in my abilities. As a sophomore he told me if I continue to develop, I had enough ability to earn a basketball scholarship and play at the college level. That belief made a big difference in how I worked at my game to get to the next level.”
“John Speirs coached me on the freshman, JV and varsity basketball teams. His enthusiasm for hoop, competition, and his ability to make practice fun while working us hard, is what I remember most. He was the perfect coach for our group of guys. In games I participated with him as the coach, I think we were 43-4 with so many close games and epic comebacks. Over the years as his point guard, he gave me a lot of autonomy which, to me, showed how much confidence he had in me to make the right plays and get everyone involved in the offense.”
After graduation Mike went on to play 4 years as point guard at Oneonta State. He was the team Co-Captain, in 1987, and was voted the “Attitude Award” by teammates and coaches. In 1987 Mike received the ultimate distinction as he was nominated for SUNY Oneonta “Student Athlete of the Year”. While at Oneonta, Mike helped turn around a terrible 6-16 junior season into a 16-6 senior season, a season culminated with an ECAC bid. “One of my biggest sports thrills,” said Mike “was being announced as starting point guard for the first time in an NCAA Basketball Game.” This accomplishment came 2 years after the head coach told him he would never be a starter at Oneonta. “It’s memorable to me because I learned that you can’t measure heart, and if you want something bad enough and are willing to work for it and improve your skills, you can overcome the obstacles. It was a personal victory and satisfaction that I think about often when I have challenging business and life goals I am striving to achieve.”
Although Mike is best known for his basketball skills, he was also very accomplished in a number of other sports. Mike played Little League baseball as a shortstop from 1974-1977 under coach Ray Scally and then Tim Murphy (SSHoF) with his best year in 1977 when he batted over .400. “Ray Scally was my first coach, he drafted me in Little League. He provided great encouragement to me as a struggling 9 year old. “I still remember the great feeling I had when he called to tell me he drafted me and I became a Dodger. Tim Murphy coached me the remaining years in Little League. He had a passion for his team and cared for the players. He took time in practice to teach us how to play the game right with enthusiasm and always kept the stats and would review them through the season which made it feel much more important.” Mike was the starting shortstop on the 1977 Saugerties LL All Star Team under Tom Wilsey. “Tom Wilsey coached our Little League all-star team. I remembered him as competitive and tough and he had a lot of belief in our team. As the starting shortstop, he really taught me how to take charge as the leader of the infield.”
Mike continued his baseball career playing at Saugerties High School on the freshman baseball team as a pitcher, shortstop and 3rd baseman. Of his freshman coach Ray Ramano, Mike said, “When our top pitchers Eddie Short and Randy Dodig were injured, he gave me an opportunity to pitch opening game (my pitching career was short lived for good reason), chuckled Mike. While playing Babe Ruth at the same time, Mike was a two-year All-Star as a shortstop, third baseman and pitcher.
In JV Baseball, Mike had a 300+ batting average, and was the team leader in steals and runs scored. “Coach Neville gave me and Derek Whitaker the “green light “to steal anytime we were on base,” said Mike.
In two years of varsity baseball under Saugerties HS Coach Tony Vizzie, Mike played outfield and third base. He hit over .300 as a junior, and was a member of the undefeated MHAL Champions in 1982 and 1983, being named Co-Captain in 1983. Of Tony Vizzie, Mike admiringly commented, “Everyone had a huge level of respect for him as a manager and a teacher of the fundamentals of baseball. Practices were run at a college level. We were undefeated in both of my varsity seasons and I played with about a dozen players that developed enough under his guidance to go on to play baseball in college.”
Mike also excelled in golf. He played varsity golf from 1981 to 1983. His teams were MHAL Champions in 1982 and 1983 (undefeated). Mike was All MHAL in 1982, team Co-Captain in 1982 and 1983 and team Co-MVP in 1983. “Bob Varrell was my Golf coach for 3 years. He had a passion for golf and really focused on teaching course management and “the short game around the greens”. There was a lot of competition to be part of the starting 6 for each match. He ran a “meritocracy”: top 6 scores played in the matches. We lost only 1 match during my last two years and it was a start of a dynasty for Saugerties.” As a youth, Mike competed in the Kingston Jr Golf League and was a member of the 1975 League Champion.
As a youth bowler between the years 1974 and 1983, Mike averaged a high of 205. He was a member of the team from Saugerties that finished second in the State Championship, rolling a 600 series. “Bob Waldele was my bowling coach during my teenage years. I remember how much he cared about us, as well as his love for bowling. He was one of those guys you knew you could count on,” said Mike.
Outside of Mike Hasenbalg’s athletic endeavors, he was a coach and counselor at the “Big Guy Camp “at Oneonta, and a head coach in the Saugerties Summer League Basketball Program. Mike also umpired in the Saugerties Little League. Professionally, Mike was the former VP of Marketing for Life Quest, a fitness club chain in Charleston, South Carolina. They earned 7 NOVA awards for innovation in marketing and operations in the fitness industry,
Mike was an organizer and promoter of Women’s Fitness Competitions, televised on ESPN2 in 1997. For 12 years he was an independent business owner, developing a national sales and marketing organization. For the past seven years, he has specialized in the Medicare industry, with his own local independent Medicare insurance agency, focusing on helping seniors and those with certain disabilities find the most suitable Medicare advantage or supplemental plans.
Mike has spent ten years as a Bible Study Teacher under the guidance and leadership of Pastor Don Moore. They also started Youth LIVE, a Christian organization aimed at young people. From 2003 through 2006, the area youth met at the Kingston Midtown Neighborhood Center where they could socialize, play basketball, volleyball and listen to live Christian music performed by their peers. Mike served as the Executive Director and trained youth leaders to “run the show”.
On August 21, 2004, Mike married the love of his life, Elizabeth (Tolli), and the couple currently reside in Saugerties. Of wife Elizabeth, Mike adoringly and proudly boasts, “She was the prettiest woman at church with the biggest heart. After we became friends, it was a no-brainer for me.”
To meet Mike, one instantly picks up not only on his quick wit and humor, but also his passion for life, sports, family, community and church. Said Mike, “Each of the coaches I had growing up had some type of positive impact on me, whether it was just seeing their commitment and allowing so many to enjoy the experience of competition, and being part of a team or a life lesson that impacted me in my life beyond sports.” In a befitting testimony to Mike and to his skills, former coach John Speirs relates the following, “Mike Hasenbalg is the ultimate epitome of a point guard. Of course he possessed all the essential skills (a great handle, precision passer, money free throw shooter, played great defense and strong floor general) He was second to none in all these areas. But it was something else that separated him from all the rest. Mike was never satisfied, always wanted to learn more, do more, and add to his game. A true student of the game, he always asked, why? It made him such a better player. He’d sit with me in my classroom, on the bus, on the dock of the Saugerties beach (not kidding) and talk basketball. If we weren’t playing, he was watching other players, opponents, college, pros, learning from them and improving himself. Perhaps my favorite thing about him is he did all if this while displaying great respect for himself, the opposition, the officials and the great game of basketball that he loves so dearly. I cried the night his mom called from the hospital to say his foot was broken. Not tears for me or the fact that at 8-1, I had no doubt we would win the league that year, I cried for him. I knew what it meant to him, just wasn’t fair. He’s worked too hard. Ok, I cried some tears for me too. Congratulations Mike, Welcome to the Hall.”
Added longtime friend, teammate, and Hall of Famer, Jeff Dodig, “I first met Mike on the basketball court in Biddy League. He was very quick, had a great jump shot, and was very competitive. In fact, the first time Mike invited me over to his house; he ran the pool table on me and beat me in a game of ping-pong. His desire to be the best at everything was something that I admired and was the gas that ignited a friendship that is still burning today. Thanks for sharing your Christian faith and being such a great example to me. Congratulations Haz on being selected for the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame!”
A winning point guard is always in control, especially when the game is on the line. When he is in command, he makes all other players better by his presence. The Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame is made better by your presence Mike. Congratulations on your induction to the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame class of 2016!