Plane Ride Bonds 2 Lugnuts for Life

Roy Hobbs Baseball

DuPage Lugnuts
Greg Wagner Photo Long-time Lugnuts Roy Spencer (L) and Matt Baer, who moved to California but returns regularly to play with the Lugnuts and stays with Spencer.

“Where ever you find Roy, you’ll find me, and wherever you find me, Roy will be there,” says Matt Baer, at least as far as the baseball diamond is concerned.

And for this past summer, that comment applied to Roy’s home as well. Although Matt and his wife moved from Illinois to Laguna Niguel, California, early last year, Matt couldn’t bear to part from Roy and his other DuPage Lugnut teammates.

“He loves the game and the team so much,” Roy said, “that he got a note from his wife saying he could stay with me this summer and play one last year here.”

“Roy became more than a teammate and more than friend,” Matt said. “He opened his house to me and made me part of his family.”

Matt commuted from California to Illinois, and maneuvered his work travel schedule so that he managed to play about 20 games with the Lugnuts in the Chicago Central DuPage League.

Roy and Matt met each other through the Lugnuts 11 years ago when Matt joined the team. Roy was a founding member of the Chicago Central DuPage League, and when Matt showed up, he hadn’t played baseball since high school, but “I enjoyed his energy and enthusiasm so I kind of took him under my wing,” Roy said. “He’s very fast and he’s developed into a very good outfielder. He’s a very savvy baseball player.”

After being cut from his high school baseball team as a sophomore, Roy didn’t pick up the game again until 30 years later, but Matt says, “He’s the smartest baseball player I’ve ever seen. I’ve learned a lot from him.”

For years now, Matt has been the Lugnuts’ leadoff hitter, and Roy has batted second.

“We’ve done it so long that we each know what the other is thinking,” Matt said. “That provides a real comfort level. I can tell by watching him when he’s going to try to hit to right, or lay one down, or fake a bunt to create a gap so I can steal a base. It’s a sixth sense we have from playing together so much.”

But that didn’t happen right away. Their bond didn’t really begin to form until the end of their first season together when they found themselves on the same flight from Chicago to Ft. Myers to play with the Lugnuts in the Roy Hobbs World Series.

“We got to talking about life and family and baseball,” Matt said. “I told him I wanted to play more, and said he did too, so we joined a team in a younger division the next year, as well as the Lugnuts.

“That one plane ride kind of kicked things into a different gear.”

When Matt’s youngest son graduated from High School last May, his wife—a native of South Carolina—wanted to leave Chicago’s cold winters, so the family moved to California. Next year, Matt will find a California team to play for. But he’s grateful that Roy’s generosity helped him spend one last season with the Lugnuts.

“We’ll still play together at the Roy Hobbs World Series, though,” Matt said.

This year, they will play for the Lugnuts in the 53-and-over division, and with the PSOF Rangers in the 45’s. Baseball at this age, Roy says, is a privilege they will continue to enjoy as long as they can.

“We were in a championship game one year in the Hobbs World Series with the Lugnuts,” Roy said. “Last inning, tying run on base with Matt at bat and 2 outs. Matt had a terrific at bat. He had 2 strikes and fouled off 6 or 8 pitches, and I just knew he was going to get a walk or drive in the tying run.

“And finally this pitcher threw a low curve ball, like 8 inches off the plate, and low and behold, the umpire calls it a strike. Game over. Tournament over. Both teams were just shocked.

“So we went to the bar, and were all sitting around, and somebody asked if we’d really feel that much different had we won. And we thought about it, and came to the consensus as a team that no, we wouldn’t. We fought hard all week, and at the end of the day, we had fun playing ball. That sort of summarizes how Matt and I feel about the game. You want to win, but at the end of the day, just enjoy the opportunity to play.”

Teammates 2015

Matt Baer

Age: 56
Hometown: Laguna Niguel, California
Occupation: Sales
2014 World Series Teams: DuPage Lugnuts and PSOF Rangers
Position: Outfield
Best baseball memory: Winning our first league championship in Chicago with the Lugnuts in 2006.
Quote: “I lead off and Roy hits second, so when I go up to bat at the start of a game, we tap bats and fists at the same time, something we always do to kick-start the game.”

Roy Spencer

Age: 61
Hometown: Valparaiso, Indiana
Occupation: Contractor
2014 World Series Teams: DuPage Lugnuts and PSOF Rangers
Positions: Infield and Outfield
Best Baseball Memory: Winning AAA Championship with Lugnuts in the Roy Hobbs World Series with a team comprised of only 11 players.
Quote: “It’s been pretty cool spending so much time together, knowing that this was going to be Matt’s last year here. It’s going to be real difficult next year without him.”