For anyone looking to stay active in the sport of baseball long after their playing days are over, look no further than Northville High School graduate Chad Duesler for inspiration.
Like many young kids do, Duesler began his playing career with Gloversville Little League. Coming from a baseball family, it was no surprise that Duesler took to baseball right away. His father was the baseball coach at Northville High School, where Duesler would go on to play alongside his brother.
"It's a family thing," Duesler said. "Being able to come up with my brother, play catch all the time, it's just something we grew up around."
Rockland Boulders bench coach Chad Duesler, a Northville graduate, greets Glen Johnson (20) at first base during a Can-Am League game. (Photo submitted)
Duesler went on to play for Division II Dominican College in Orangeburg, New York. An injury forced Duesler to redshirt his first year with the program. This gave him the opportunity to expand his knowledge of the game alongside head coach Rich Giannetti, something that would prove most valuable to Duesler's future.
"I knew I had a lot to learn," said Duesler. "I sat the whole year right next to coach Giannetti and just tried to learn the game better. That's what I've always wanted to do."
He ended up playing four full years with Dominican, reaching the regional tournament for the first time during his senior year. The tournament coincided with graduation day, meaning Duesler didn't get to walk with his class. Duesler graduated from Dominican in 2006. A lifelong catcher, Duesler's body wasn't holding up as well as it used to, something that made his decision to leave his playing days behind him much easier.
"I knew I was just getting tired and catching for however many years took a toll on my body," Duesler said.
Away from baseball for the first time since he was an elementary schooler running around the Little League fields in Gloversville, Duesler got a surprising phone call about a month after returning home to Northville. Coach Giannetti wanted him to join his coaching staff at his alma mater. Duesler jumped at the opportunity.
"I've always looked at coaches in a different way," he said. "I knew probably at the high school level that I wanted to coach and just stay in the game."
The life of a Division II college baseball coach, unfortunately, doesn't provide the financial stability that coaches at big Division I schools enjoy. Since college Duesler has worked in landscaping and at a hotel fitness center to make ends meet while he pursues his dreams within the sport of baseball.
Coaching in Rockland County, Duesler was able to get acquainted with the Rockland Boulders, a professional baseball team that is a member of the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball, better known as the Can-Am League. In 2011, Duesler found himself confronted with the opportunity to serve as the team's bullpen catcher.
"I wanted to get my feet wet in a professional organization, so I said 'Yeah, I'll do it'," Duesler said.
After injuries and disciplinary problems depleted the team's catching corps, Duesler found himself with an opportunity that he never thought he'd get. He was activated to the team's roster. Duesler managed one at bat as a professional baseball player about two weeks into the season.
In 2012, Duesler came back under head coach Dave LaPoint as a bullpen coach, responsible for getting guys ready to start the games. Most recently, Duesler has continued his move up the ladder, landing the bench-coaching job for the Boulders in 2013. As bench coach, he is essentially second-in-command to new head coach Jamie Keefe.
In addition to his expanded coaching role with Rockland, Duesler is now the facilities manager for the Hennessy Center, a fitness center located on the campus of Dominican College. Balancing both while constantly striving to move up in his baseball career has been a welcome challenge for Duesler.
"I sat down with the President [of Dominican College] and said coaching is my career and this is what I want to do and I'd like you to let me do this," Duesler said. "We had to talk about how we'd make it work, but the college is great about letting me do it. It's right down the road."
Duesler's unmatched love for the game of baseball is what drives him to continue moving forward in his career. While Duesler is happy with where he's at, he made it clear that he has his sights set on the future.
"I have a full time job and I'm working with a great organization," said Duesler. "As far as coaching, I'm doing it to further my resume. I'm happy where I'm at but I always want to move up."
Duesler has made numerous high-profile contacts since he joined the Boulders, including former major leaguers Damian Rolls and John Flaherty, the latter of which founded the team in 2011.
"Guys like that could help me at the next level," Duesler said.
Duesler's Boulders are currently near the top of the Can-Am League standings. When asked what has kept his passion for baseball so strong after all these years, Duesler, now 30, was succinct in his response.
"It's in my blood."