As the old saying goes, when one door closes another one opens.
No one knows this better than Nate Heili, the newest member of the La Crosse Loggers.
The Loggers talked with Heili before the season to have the UW-La Crosse standout be part of the team throughout the Northwoods League summer. Heili passed on that chance to instead participate in an educational research opportunity through the school.
“Yeah, they were interested in me earlier in the summer, but I had a research opportunity through UW-L and it was a pretty good opportunity that I didn’t really want to pass up,” Heili said. “But I let them know that I would stay interested later in the year.”
And here he is on the roster.
Heili, who studies biology, was offered a research opportunity after he secured a grant from the University to study how a certain plants, when placed in a stream in Coon Valley, could stop or help mitigate agricultural pollution. But that project hit a snag with the heavy rains that swept through the area last week.
“Last week we had all that rain all of the plants that I was looking at ending up getting de-rooted,” Heili said. “I was just kind of getting the methodology down and starting to get it, and then we got all of that rain. So my research is kind of on a halt right now, so I called up and said, ‘Hey I’m interested,’ and Chris Goodell hooked me up. I’m just really grateful they still wanted me.”
“It’s kind of a bummer, but hey, when one door closes another opens. So I’m just trying to look at the bright side, and I still learned a lot this summer.”
Heili, along with the rest of his team, is trying to salvage the project and hopes to give the experiment another try later in the year or next summer in addition to now having a better understanding on how flooding impacts the soil and fauna within the Coulee Region.
But for now the Loggers are happy to have him after he led the Eagles in hits (57) total bases (71), on-base percentage (.442), and stolen bases (21) while having the second best batting average at .348.
“I’ve seen him play at UW-L, not a lot but enough to know his skill set,” Loggers manager Brian Lewis said. “I think we are fortunate to have him. He’s a big kid that can play shortstop really well and can also play third base. He’s a guy that is really going to help us.
“I think he could be a guy in this league with his skill set and because of the way he plays. He runs pretty well for a big guy. He swings the bat well. I am excited to see what he can do.”
Heili is the third UW-L player in the Northwoods League this season, joining Loggers teammate Mason McMahon and Caleb Willems, who is set to join the Eau Claire Express within the next week after recovering from a shoulder injury.
“Just to have teammates playing in this league is pretty awesome,” Heili said. “Mason lives no more than a half-block away from me, and it’s just awesome to have him here, as well, and to watch him grow as a baseball player.”
“(Willems) is a good buddy of mine, and he’s worked hard to get that opportunity, too. He was there last year and did well, and hopefully he can replicate that success this year. It’s great to have him to sign with a team like that.”
Originally from Sheboygan, Wis., Heili has family in La Crosse and attended games Loggers at Copeland Park with relatives when he was younger. Now, getting the chance to play in the Logger pinstripes, he admitted is pretty special.
“I was young and you always dream that way,” Heili said. “But I was just thinking about that today. Just being young and looking at those guys and being like, ‘Wow they are really good.’ Now here I am in a Loggers uniform. I am very fortunate.
“There’s no better place to do it than La Crosse. I go to school here, and it feels like home.”