Teammates played together as preps but adult ball brought them together
By MIKE MURPHEY
Roy Hobbs Baseball
The last high school baseball game Mike Shevlin and Chuck Nave played together broke their hearts. Their Cypress Lake High School squad from Ft. Myers was the better team, but their opponent from Naples in that 1968 district tournament had a pitcher, Carlos Alfonso, who’d shut everyone down all year.
“I remember that none of us could hit him,” Mike said.
“Yeah, that kid was the best player in the neighborhood,” Nave remembered. “I think he threw a 1-hitter against us that day. And then they lost the next game because all they had was him.”
Alfonso was drafted into the Houston Astros organization, and went on to have a long career as both a minor and Major League coach and scout.
Having the 1968 baseball season end that way was particularly difficult for the players on the Cypress Lake team because that year had been a challenge to which they had risen. Cypress Lake had finished second in the Florida State Tournament the season before, but the loss of seniors to graduation decimated their ranks. The coaches scrambled to find 11 players, including Mike, who had moved to Ft. Myers Beach from Minnesota the previous summer, and Nave, who had played basketball and football, but not baseball, previously in his high school career.
“I lived out on Sanibel, and getting back and forth to practices was tough, so I’d sat out the baseball seasons,” Chuck said. “But the coaches came around looking for players and talked me into it for my senior year.”
They had a good season, Chuck recalled, but didn’t live up to the previous year’s standards, and losing to the Naples team was a hard way to end it all.
Fast forward 33 years to 2001 and the Roy Hobbs World Series. Mike Shevlin was pitching and Chuck Nave was playing first base at the stadium at Terry Park—the field where they’d played some of their high school games. And this time they won.
“That was the first time I’d ever won gold in the Roy Hobbs tournament,” Mike said. “Terry Park One was where we played our high school ball. It was the best of the old-time fields, and that was one of the best times of my life.”
Although they were teammates in high school, Chuck and Mike were not close off the field.
“Mike was always an easy-going guy,” Chuck said, “but he as a beach kid and I was an island kid so we might as well have lived in two different counties. And he’d just transferred in that year, so I didn’t know him all that well.”
They went their separate ways after high school. They both attended Edison Junior College, but Chuck went back to basketball, and Mike played baseball there, and then at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.
“We played a 60-game schedule including teams like Vanderbilt, Miami and the University of South Alabama,” Mike said. “I was a reliever. I don’t know if I pitched in every one of those 60 games, but it seemed like I did.”
Mike returned to Ft. Myers and went into real estate. Chuck had never left. He went into the family business, started playing softball, and was recruited by Fran Podraza to play on the baseball team he took to Boardwalk and Baseball for the second Roy Hobbs World Series tournament in 1990.
“We’ve won some medals over the years,” Chuck said, “but I think my favorite Roy Hobbs memory is the last game of our third year in the tournament. I think we were the Island Coasters. We went 0-6 each of the first 2 years, and were 0-5 for this one. I was pitching that game in the stadium and Randy White—the writer—was catching. Guys were on base and Randy had a torn groin muscle, so I knew I couldn’t throw a wild pitch because he’d never make it back there to get it. But we finally broke through, and won a game.”
Through Podraza’s efforts, more and more people became interested in playing baseball rather than softball in Ft. Myers, and a local league was formed.
During all this time, Mike and Chuck had not encountered each other.
Then, “Somewhere around 1995,” Mike said, “I found out there were adult teams playing baseball in Lee County. I hadn’t played for 20 years but I immediately signed up. One day the team I was on played the Hooters, and there was Chuck. And I wished I was playing on a team with him.”
Chuck recruited Mike to their Roy Hobbs World Series team that year, and they have played together ever since. And as adults, they’ve gotten to know each other much better than they did as high school teammates.
“Mike is still that easy-going kind of guy that he was as a kid,” Chuck said. “We’ve gotten to have a really nice relationship.”
“Chuck is a super-dedicated ballplayer,” said Mike. “He loves the game. He’s one of that group of guys who you know is going to be there.”
“I think the thing we’ve enjoyed most together is when we’ve won something significant playing over at Terry Park where we played out high school games,” Chuck said. “It’s always nice being over there, and the two of us walking off with a win. Because of the way that ’68 team struggled that last game.”