GOFL Player Interview - Mike Branchaud
Mike "Pudge" Branchaud, #49, Barrhaven Broadway Blues
Q: Where did you play your minor/junior softball?
I grew up in Cornwall, Ontario and played both minor baseball and minor softball there. I actually pitched both until I was 16. It was getting pretty tough on the arm so my Dad made me choose one and I picked softball. I still played baseball but mostly as a first or third baseman. As a 17 year old, I played some senior baseball with Cornwall as they played in a league in upper NY State. It was some pretty high level ball with a few players moving on to the Major Leagues and some playing college. I also played Junior Softball for the Stittsville 56ers for 3 years when the Junior Age was U19. We always had competitive teams out of Stittsville with many great players, some of whom still play today.
Q: You must have some interesting stories from playing with Eddie Feigner and the King and his Court. What's the most interesting thing that ever happened playing with those guys?
Wow, spending 5 years with the King and His Court was a huge opportunity for me. There were so many interesting things that happened when I was playing full time. I saw many great facilities, meeting outstanding people, playing tons of golf, all playing the game I loved and getting paid to do it.
Some of the neat places I played in were Guantamano Bay, Cuba, Vero Beach (Dodgertown) and many minor league stadiums, Key West, Los Angeles, many prisons, the list could go on.
Some of the stories are better suited for post game tailgating but perhaps one of the most interesting thing that happened was a unique experience in Traverse City, Michigan. We had a game there in support of their Cherry festival during a Sunday afternoon in July. It was a fairly decent crowd of about a 1000 people and we had just started the game and were into our “show” when Eddie stopped the game in the bottom of the first. He was pitching and just walked off the mound to the microphone.
I looked at the other guys and they just shrugged their shoulders. Then Eddie introduced an old friend of his and his wife, Gordie and Colleen Howe. He then escorted them to our bench. My girlfriend (now my wife) was on our bench and shook both their hands and started talking to Gordie’s wife Colleen. So, I am on the field thinking, I get to meet Gordie and I have to get autographs for some friends. Sure enough the ½ inning ends and Eddie introduces us to the Howes. On a side note, my wife asked me if he was a hockey player. It was close but I still kept her around.
We ended up having dinner with Gordie at his restaurant a couple of times in my travels, and to this day, his signed hockey stick is hanging in my basement.
Q: What is your fondest memory in fastball?
So many to chose from, playing over 125 games a year from 1994-1998 with the King and His Court, being named to the ISC all World Team in 1999, numerous tournament Championships but basically just being able to take the field year after year. Perhaps the fondest memory of softball is the opportunity this game created for me to establish friendships all across the World.
Q: What is your favourite softball park to play in?
I was spoiled to play in many great facilities, college level parks, minor league baseball complexes but perhaps my favourite is still King George Park in Cornwall. There were so many great players in Cornwall when I was growing up and I started out as being bat boy eventually earning my way on a team. In a selfish way, I especially like the short right field fence (212 feet) and the big clubhouse 10 feet past the fence. There were many a homeruns hit over and off the roof of that clubhouse.
Fitzroy fastball note: I thought Fitzroy Harbour was the only park with a 212 foot right field fence!
Q: Where is the best tournament you have ever played in?
My favourite tournament is still in Ausable Forks, NY. I married a girl from Peru, NY and have family in the area. They have a passion for softball and sports there and the atmosphere surrounding the diamond is excellent. The best tournament I played in was the ISC World Championships in 1999 (Sioux City, IA) and 2000 (St. Josephs, MI). Our NY Spirit team finished 7th both years and that was when the Championship was a double elimination with 30 plus teams.
Q: Who is the toughest pitcher you have ever faced in fastball?
I have seen so many great ones but I think being a left hand batter facing lefty Mike Piechnik back in the early 1990’s was probably the time I felt the most over matched. He had nasty stuff that day. But Zack, Algar, Underwood were all guys that I faced and were very tough. Undy was especially tough being lefty versus lefty again.
Q: How do you occupy your 'off-season'?
My off season is currently occupied by coaching minor hockey. I am the Head Coach of a Novice B team in Metcalfe and also a co-coach of an Initiation Program team also in Metcalfe. With 2 boys aged 5 and 7, there is not much down time. With my position as manager of Canadian Championships and Domestic Services with Softball Canada, I also have the opportunity to work in our game year round.
Q: You were recently inducted into the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame alongside your father. Tell us a bit about that honour.
As mentioned before, there were so many outstanding ball players in the Cornwall area. They had a great league there when I was just a kid called the North End Fastball League. It was basically a Senior League with players from Ottawa, Hull, Montreal and the USA. As the years progressed, Cornwall still developed some outstanding teams in the Intermediate circuit with some players travelling to play Senior. To be recognized in the sport that I love to play was a great honour especially when I see who else is in the Hall of Fame. My dad was a fierce competitor who could hit any pitcher for singles and doubles. He was a high average guy in any league he played in. Just knowing that our pictures are forever side by side in the Cornwall Sports Hall of Fame, will be something I will cherish.
Q: If you could change one thing about the GOFL or fastball in general, what would it be?
As an employee of Softball Canada I work on improving this every day. We have taken great strides the last several years in targeting and developing programs for the youth. Our Learn to Play numbers continue to grow and we have recently introduced a pitching program called Can-Pitch. We have recognized that pitching is essentially the backbone of this game and there is an urgent need to develop pitchers. The Can-Pitch program does this and also teaches coaches the basics so that they can teach the kids.
Q: What is one thing that most guys in the GOFL probably don't know about you?
That I am a very superstitious guy when it comes to sports. Whether it is softball, hockey or whatever game I am playing, there are things you do the same. In softball, I do not step on any lines, I do not go into the circle unless I am pitching, left sock, right sock, left cleat, then right, to name a few. If I ever got into a groove, hitting or pitching, it was always the same routine.
Thanks to Pudge for sharing his many experiences with us! Great stuff. Remember, watch your inbox for an email titled "Interview" - you could be next.