Funnyman got his big career break at a Dukes game in mid-’90s
To make it big, sometimes you’ve got to take chances.
Rick Hader, more commonly known around minor league ballparks for his shtick as Myron Noodleman, rolled the dice early in his entertainment career by defying an order from the late Albuquerque Dukes general manager Pat McKernan.
Hader experienced enough success with his comedy routine while living in Oklahoma in the early ’90s – performing for the University of Oklahoma and the University of Tulsa as well as minor league baseball’s Tulsa Drillers – that he decided to go national.
He hired an agent and sent out brochures offering his services to every minor league baseball team. Only the Dukes and McKernan responded.
Prior to his Albuquerque Sports Stadium debut, McKernan gave Hader a stern warning.
“He said, ‘Just work the crowd; go in the crowd. I don’t want you in the dugout; I don’t want you on the field,'” Hader said, while doing his best gravelly-voiced imitation of McKernan. “I said all right, because that’s how I started my act – I was just working the crowd.”
It can be easy to get carried away when a big moment arrives, however, and on this particular night one of the Dukes hit a walk-off home run. Sure enough, Myron Noodleman did exactly what he was told not to do.
“I jumped up on the dugout and started dancing. The crowd was loving it, I was high-fiving people and everything,” Hader said. “I get off and I’m walking down the concourse, and there’s Pat McKernan looking at me.”
As Hader went into apology mode, the future member of the Albuquerque Sports Hall of Fame stopped him.
“He says, ‘I loved it. That was awesome,'” Hader recalls.
It was the beginning of a fruitful relationship, and Hader now brings his variety of gags, skits and goofy dance moves to Albuquerque on a regular basis. Today, Noodleman returns to Isotopes Park as Albuquerque takes on Nashville in the second of a four-game series.
Coming back to where it all began is still special for Hader, now 53 years old.
“I love it because the fans know me,” he said. “I just walk out on the field (during) the introduction, and you can hear the crowd: ‘Myron, you da man.’ It makes your job a lot more fun when people know who you are.”
Of course, now Hader has plenty of destinations to fill his calendar as the self-proclaimed “Hippest Nerd in Da Biz.” Before this season is done, he’ll have performed for fans of the Wingnuts, Crawdads, Beach Bums and AquaSox, to name a few.
That, too, is partially thanks to McKernan, who advised Hader to attend baseball’s winter meetings back in 1995 to solicit more work. Hader sold himself well.
“That’s where it all took off – all the teams were there. I dressed up in my costume and stayed in character the whole winter meetings, which is a lot of work,” he said. “But I had to do something to get my name out there.”
The Noodleman that all those minor league organizations saw back then was developed from a “nerdy character” that won Hader many a Halloween costume contest before his act went live. When the job offers poured in after the meetings, Hader was able to quit his day job as a Tulsa public school teacher.
In an average year, Hader can work 60 to 70 gigs as Noodleman, although he says the struggling economy has lowered that number recently. During his 17 years of entertaining, Hader has often unwittingly involved some of baseball’s biggest names in his act, including Joey Votto, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy.
“At the time I don’t know who these guys are,” he said.
He doesn’t need to. Because Hader once took a chance on a career and because McKernan once took a chance on him, now plenty of people know Myron Noodleman.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal
Photo Credit – JOURNAL FILE