Jeff Dodig, 2015 Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame inductee, has lived and breathed baseball since he was a young kid who went out on the diamond to play ball with his cousins. While Dodig also played basketball during his years at Saugerties High School, baseball has always been his passion. He went on to play in college and the minors.
Baseball taught him the values of dedication and humility and how to lose with one’s head held high. But he didn’t get into sports for character-building. He played for the rush, that magic feeling that only comes from winning and losing with your friends. “Magic moment” is a phrase Dodig loves to use. “An individual magic moment that I had was an at-bat I had [on varsity baseball at SHS]. I was facing Charles Davis, who is now an ESPN announcer for football. Charles threw me a fastball and I was a line-drive hitter, not a homerun hitter, but that particular day he threw an inside fastball, and I happened to get underneath it. So I’m running to first base because as a line-drive hitter, you hit a ball in the gap, you’re thinking three, right? So, I’m running around first base and I’m looking where the ball is, and all of a sudden I see the ball hit, bounce, then bounce real high, and I’m like, whoa, that ball went into the tennis courts!”
Dodig’s father was a man of few words, but when he did speak, it was something to be remembered. He’ll never forget what his father told him after a biddy league basketball game. “I started to realize that the other players, my friends, my cousins, were getting better than me. My dad looked over at me and said, ‘Son, if you want to be good at something, you have to practice. You practice, you’re gonna be the best of the best.’ So I applied that both on the sports playing field and in business.”
Dodig was a part of the varsity Sawyer baseball teams that went undefeated in ’82 and ’83, as well as a member of the Saugerties Dutchmen. After he graduated from high school, he attended Brevard College in Florida to play baseball, but transferred to Winthrop College in South Carolina after his freshman year. The most significant testament to his father’s advice occurred in another of Dodig’s ‘magic moments.’
“One of the greatest memories that I have is when my dad got the call. It was after midnight, and I remember like it was yesterday. He picked up the phone and he was all excited, and I knew that was it. I ended up talking to my coach and he told me I was picked up in the 41st round by the Atlanta Braves. It was definitely a highlight for sure.” Dodig played outfield for the Atlanta Braves organization for two years. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury that caused him to be released from his contract, but his love for baseball didn’t end there.
Dodig coaches in Greene County, where he is involved with the American Legion 19U program. “I use the baseball platform to mentor kids. I teach them baseball, but more importantly, I’m teaching them life skills on the baseball field.” A value he tries to instill in his players can be summed up with the acronym TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More.
Now and again he opens up his book of contacts that he has accumulated throughout his amateur and professional baseball days for a little inspiration. One of his players was looking to play ball down in Tennessee where it just so happened Charles Davis had gone. “I sent him an email, introducing myself, hopefully he would remember my name! So, he sends me an email right back, and in the first couple sentences, what does he mention? The homerun. The pitch that he threw to me. So, that was really fun, a real magic moment for me.”
Dodig speaks about baseball with exuberance and passion. He’s an optimist, more interested in solutions than problems. This outlook most likely comes from his brother’s encouragement while growing up.
“My brother John, when I look back on my Saugerties sports career, one thing that he did such a great job with is he always built me up. He always gave me the affirmations. He always talked highly about me when he was with his coach and teammates. When you hear that, you start really believing it! That was huge for me.”
Family has always been his inspiration, from his parents to his cousins to his siblings. Everyone was involved in sports in some way, whether it be through playing, coaching or cheering on the team. He credits family support with his success. He also made clear how he would like to thank his father in heaven and his faith in Jesus for leading him in the right direction.
After his time with the Braves, Dodig went on to earn his degree, which led him into business. He was always drawn to self-employment, and after hard work and perseverance, he opened a successful technology consulting company.
It may not be the most popular sport anymore, but there’s nothing more American than baseball. Most of us have memories of playing it growing up. In that, Jeff Dodig is no different from us. But he is exceptional in that, through hard work and talent, he was able to ascend to the highest levels of competition, where everything is faster and tougher. But he never forgot his Saugerties roots, and his exploits on the local ballfields loom just as large in memory as those of his professional career.
Tickets are available now for the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame Club’s 52nd annual induction banquet on Saturday, May 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern. Doors open an hour prior with a cocktail reception from 5:30-6:30 p.m. This year’s inductees are Jeff Dodig, Albert Giannotti (posthumously), John Harris, Randy Nilsen and Mark “Doc” Silinovich. Tickets are available by contacting Mark Becker at (518) 641-9520 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost is $25. Reserve early.