A Metro now, a Niagara Metro for life
* Niagara Metros, Central Ontario Baseball Association senior champs, after winning their championship ….
By Devon Teeple
Growing up, baseball was always a huge focal point in my life. It was something I wanted as my profession.
In that journey, you play a lot of baseball, and meet a lot of people. Some you stay in contact with, and with some you lose touch — that’s just life.
But every once in a while you join a team that becomes something more than that. You develop life long relationships, develop unbreakable bonds and the game on the field sometimes becomes secondary to what is built off of it.
My baseball career has spanned many different levels like a lot of the contributors in this article, but by far, when it comes to enjoyment, family, and friendship, the Niagara Metros wins hands down.
Since 1985 the Niagara Metros have been a staple in senior ball in Ontario, specifically in the OBA, and in the Central Ontario Major Baseball League. Since day one, regardless of who was in the line-up and what ages the players were, the Metros were always competitive and always the team others had to look out for, especially when lead by Mark Walters and Kerry Hedden.
One thing you have to know is that without general manager Mark Walters, none of this would be possible. His vision has taken this to a place no one could have imagined. His Niagara Metros website is something you really have to look at before you can understand the work that he has put in to this team. Walters has compiled everything and anything you could imagine; pictures, articles, quotes, stories, game summaries, and season summaries.
And what always blows me away; stats compiled for over the last 28 years for anyone who has ever taken the field. It is really mind-blowing when you think about it.
Kerry Hedden aka Hedder took over a field manager of the Metros in 2000. A Metros lifer, (player from 1986 through 2000) Hedder is in charge of leading separate generations of Metros and gets full dedication out of each and every team on the field. He is a leader, a coach and the field general. And if you haven’t seen the Hedder Sprint, you’re missing out.
The team is in good hands with his leadership, I can guarantee you that.
Growing up playing St. Catharines minor ball, me and my buddies spent nearly every summer together from the time we were 12-years-old until we were in our mid-to-late-20s. When were turned 17/18 and our time in juniors were completed, we all went off to pursue other things, but still wanted to play ball in the summer when we returned home.
Whether it was to fine tune our skills, play some competitive summer ball or to simply reconnect before we went back to school, the Metros, formerly St. Catharines, was an established perennial championship Men’s Senior team.
I had my first brush with the Metros back in 1998 when Walters graciously allowed me to face Dundas, one of the most feared hitting squads in the province — unbeknownst to me of course. Three innings, seven hits and six earned runs later, I was officially introduced to a league I would spend seven years in.
Over the course of those years, I was fortunate enough to play with so many great players who went on to spectacular college careers, those who went on to play Major League Baseball, in the Independent Leagues, played internationally, those were drafted by MLB clubs, and played against those who had lengthy stints in professional baseball.
And during that time I was fortunate enough to develop bonds and friendships with teammates, their friends, and their family, and that is something I cherish, and I know they do as well, more than anything we accomplished on the field.
This Metros team is more than baseball. It might be difficult for some to fathom, but what Walters and Hedden have established is why we continue to play year after year.
When the season comes to a close and our focus shifts again to school, work and our normal day-to-day routine, the summer campaign is one we always remember and joke about for years. And don’t think that some bone headed play in the field, some massive jack you’ve given up, some amazing play, or just some oddball antic we might have done goes unnoticed. There are plenty of times throughout the year where we can reminisce.
Metromania, the summer ritual that is highlighted by the Metros belly flop contest, is a midsummer gathering where all current and past Metros can sit back in Hedder’s backyard and enjoy a couple cold ones. Then there is the Metros Christmas party.
Once the season is over and the dread of winter is upon us, Walters has, for many, many years invited his team, friends and significant others over to his house for a great home cooked meal, and of course; the giving of presents.
For those who don’t know, these aren’t any presents. Of course there is your typical MVP and Cy Young award, but with the inclusion of an array of gifts Marks works on all year so he has something specific for each and every person on the team. It is a really special time and one that is culminated with the Metros Poem. To receive this means your are in a special group of select Metros, your special gifts and intricacies captured in word form, like nothing you’ve ever heard.
We have been to Metro weddings, Metro anniversaries, stags and does, birthday parties. We have seen our friends and their loved ones become parents and parents become grandparents. Baseball is a great but this team transcends that.
The time and hours the coaching staff puts in to make this well-oiled machine run is beyond words, and the time and commitment the players give to see this thing through is unrivalled.
Writing this makes me think back to when I first go the call to join the team, and I cannot thank Mark enough. My relationship with the Metros goes back to when I was in High School sitting in on my first game, and being driven home from an away game to Niagara-on-the-Lake by Hedder. His comment on how the country roads in Niagara had no lights still makes me laugh.
The friendships gained are what really separate this club from the rest. Through spring training in the gym, to our first outdoor practices, the regular season battle and ongoing chase to win the eliminations, gives us memories and stories that we can look back and smile or cringe, depending on what game we’re talking about.
Though my time is done, there our names that will always make people remember and bring a smile to our faces. And with that I want to thank the Walters family and the Hedden family for bringing me along for the ride. To allow me and many others into your family is something I, and I know many others, can’t thank you enough for.
I hope those reading take a few seconds out of your day to check out the Metros website. It’s a look into one of the most successful Senior Men’s baseball teams in Ontario and will give you insight into what I am so proud to say I am a part of.
Please find below some contributions from past and current Metros. I am proud to say these are all my friends and am thrilled they took the time to partake in this (in no particular order).
Thank you to everyone I have played with or was coached by on the Metros. You all hold a special place in my heart.
I thoroughly enjoyed my 10 years playing with the Metros. When most players are reaching the point where they stop playing ball, or perhaps turn to “beer-ball” it was amazing to be able to continue to play on a highly competitive team. Beyond playing ball a couple times of week, I think we as players were lucky to be able to be part of this particular team for many more reasons. The coaching staff, while very knowledgeable in baseball, is also very fun to be around. Too often in these days (particularly in younger divisions), too much emphasis is placed on winning, and not enough on having fun. While the Metros were always fairly competitive, we also had lots of fun along the way. From our annual summer “Metromania” party, to the hilarious gag gifts of the Christmas party, this team felt more like a family than simply a baseball team. I personally feel very lucky to have been able to play with so many talented ball players during my time with the Metros. I do miss playing, but alas, there comes a time when family priorities must take precedence over playing ball. I can personally look back on my career, including my decade with the Metros & feel blessed that I had the opportunity to be part of some great baseball teams. I truly appreciate my time in the Metros Family.
Best wishes to the coaches (Mark & Kerry), and to the current & future Metros teams.
The Metros were like an extended family for me for 10-plus years. This wouldn’t have been possible without the leadership from the top, Mark Walters and Kerry Hedden. I was also blessed with playing with not only very talented ball players but great guys off the field as well. The players I went to battle with on the field were also friends off the field. I continue to have friendships with so many guys I played with to this day. The Metros gave me the opportunity to continue playing baseball at a high level and I was fortunate to play in the Canadian Championships and on the International stage with Great Britain. Without the Metros in Niagara this would never have been possible. I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to all the players that I played with and to the staff, Mark and Kerry.
It was quite a ride and I am always proud to say that I was a member of the Metros.
Baseball and the Metros are huge part of my life. It’s not just the game, but the friendships we’ve made and continued to build upon over the last 15 years. We started playing as kids, and now many of us have started our own family. It’s a great thrill to see how we’ve stayed together through all this. The Metros is more than baseball: its family.
The Metros are all about relationships. I have been part of the Metros from 1986 and what keeps me coming back are the relationships I share with my teammates, my players and my peers in COBA and across Ontario. I have been to numerous weddings, birthday parties, christenings, and much to my chagrin funerals. We just finished the first half of championship weekend, and even though we do our best to beat the other guy on the field, we can still sit down and have a friendly beer together after the game is over. Look at the relationship we share. I know we like to rib each other but I know you will always be welcome in my home and me in yours. Remember Wrestlemania in Detroit. That didn’t happen because we dislike one another. The friendships I have because of this team will stay with me forever. It is like an extended family except we actually like one another and we get to choose who is in and who is out. Helping young people grow athletically and personally all makes it worthwhile. Being part of this for all of these years has been as rewarding as any thing I have ever been involved in.
Being a Metro means being part of a family. Be it the guys, the wives, even other players’ children, everyone looks out for one another. The bond you build with your team mates is a special one, especially the ones with long time players. From the games to the road trips, especially those where you get lost driving around Hamilton (that was for you Devs) they’re all memorable!
In 2002 I was taking the summer off from baseball. I just finished my junior year at Brock and was staying in St. Catharines for the first summer. I get a phone call from Bob “Steinbrenner” Namtzu saying the Metros needed a catcher. It was late May or early June and I said I would come to the park and have a look. When I got the park Bob walked me into the clubhouse showed me my locker with “Marcheterre” written on the tape above with my #23 jersey hanging in it. I was sold. He definitely sold me on the organization. I had an awful season hit under .200 with zero RBIs but I was playing a lot because I could catch and quickly fell under Essery’s wing. It was the first time I was appreciated for being a catcher and no one cared if I could hit or not.
For me the early years 2002-05 I was 22-25. I was a young guy on the team. We had all kinds of veterans to look up to; Lou, Candy, Ess, Tommi, Rabby, and of course JR. These guys really showed you how to play. Rabby always knew what to say, JR showed you how to give everything you had and walk away knowing you had nothing left to give, Tommi and Candy taught you how to have fun at the yard and Lou how to never stop playing. From Ess I learnt how to be the baseball player I am. He was a big brother to me. He refined all aspects of my catching game. I learned to think like a pitcher when calling. I learned how to get old guys and young kids out differently. I learnt so much from him and he will always be the best pitcher I ever caught. For a seven year span we played together I was the only guy he would throw to and I wear that like a badge of honour.
When these guys stopped playing as years went on the team made the transition and now the responsibility is on JP, Andrew and I to teach and lead. I play baseball now, 10 years later at 32 years old, yes, because I love the game (although my body doesn’t anymore) but because of the guys. JP is my best friend. We met his rookie year in 2003 (although he remembers playing against me in the Ottawa senior league as an obnoxious catcher) and have been best friends since. He stood for me at my wedding and I don’t think two days go by without us talking. I am Nammer’s son Carter’s godfather. The friendships I have gained from my time as a Metro are what I remember and think about. I have played with well over 100 guys in ten seasons and I would drop everything for any of those guys if the phone rang and they needed my help. It is a brotherhood, and a tradition.
I don’t think of traditions like Metromania (although fun) but things like Veteran Row in the clubhouse. How the rookies start out far down by the coaches and work their way down to the final lockers. When I started it was Tommi, Nammer, JR on the end lockers. Now it is JP, Andrew and I. And in time it will be Ricky, Bags, and Strong. That is the tradition, stuff that means more to the guys. Candy putting the clubhouse on lockdown. Tommi telling stories that you can’t believe, but you can’t not believe. JR getting all over Rocco. No one daring talk to Ess when he was pitching. Louie swinging the old aluminum fungo to keep loose in between innings of his 800th start. D-Bone breathing into a paper bag before a relief appearance (this guy played pro ball!!). The funniest guy I have ever played with Timmy Collins and his clubhouse routines… and forget hotel rooms and rain delays. The guys are what make this team. I will remember every one of them, from former big leaguers (Dave) and guys in NCAA video games (Turner) to the new kids who keep me young. Helping these kids learn how to be Metros is the reason now. We have to make sure they are ready before we leave. They are getting close.
My favourite hockey team the Montreal Canadiens have on the wall of their dressing room is a line from In Flanders Fields “to you from failing hands we throw the torch/ be yours to hold it high.” This is what the responsibility of being a Metro is to me.
When all of the games, results, standings, and on-field stuff is over and forgotten, it is the friends that you have made along the way, that stay with you. The fact that you shared those experiences together makes the bond between you and your teammates even stronger. And if you do have success as a team, (which over the years, we have) those bonds between you and your teammates/friends are stronger yet. The sharing of a common goal and experience is one of life’s great “perks”, so yes, the camaraderie is for me, the best part of being on a team.
As a member of the management team of the Metros for 28 years, it has been my great fortune to have some 185 players come through. And almost without exception these people (notice I said “people” and not “players”) have been some of the nicest, friendliest, classiest, funniest, and helpful people in my life. These are people that I consider friends, and will always be able to call on them, whether I see them every day or every 10 years. My “memory-bank” is full … and those memories of the people and my experiences with the Metros team over all that time, will sustain me for the rest of my life.
For me, being in Canada as a foreign student the Metros meant a lot. It was my family away from home. I went to Canada without knowing anybody (not one person), and thanks to the Metros my five years in Canada were amazing and a time I will never forget. Even though I played only two years on the team, I made good friends that made my stay in Canada a lot of fun, and even know after almost 7 years of leaving the country and 1000 miles away I still keep in touch with some of them…
Thank you Metros …
My first year with the Metros was 1999 and it didn’t take long for me to realize that it was more than a ball team, it was a family. Mark and Kerry were great coaches to play for but more than just on the field, it was the time we spent away from the field that made the Metros special. Although we never won a provincial championship, I can honestly say that the time I spent with Metros was the most fun I ever had playing baseball in my life. That would include the summer of 1996 that I spent playing for Team Ontario and my four years of playing college ball in the States.
During my nine years that I played with the Metros I developed from a young kid in college with no idea where life was going to take me, to a husband starting a career, and eventually a father supporting his family. And as the years went on and my commitment to baseball became less and shifted more towards my family, Mark and Kerry never held that against me and always let me know I would be welcome no matter what. I will never forget all of the good times we had and the Metros will always hold a very special place in my heart.