Friday, November 20, 2009

Private group plans to maintain Marsh Field

By Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle

November 20, 2009
1118MARSHFIELD1Marsh Field, at the corner of Peck Street and Laketon Avenue, has hosted professional baseball and Olympic track stars. The field, which was built in 1916, is starting to show its age. The city of Muskegon and Lakeshore Baseball Club LLC are working on a agreement to make improvements to the field, which could be used to host youth baseball activities.The old field where Jesse Owens once dusted his toes and Satchel Paige trotted the bases is about to get a facelift.

Marsh Field, on the corner of Peck and Laketon, has hosted professional baseball stars, an Olympic track champion and high school games for nearly 100 years. But, it’s starting to show its age.

And officials from the cash-strapped city of Muskegon, which owns and cares for the field, think it might be time to forge a relationship for upkeep of the field with a private entity.

Enter the Lakeshore Baseball Club LLC. The new organization, led by Pete Gawkowski and Len Piasecki, hopes to make improvements to the facility so that it can host local and out-of-town youth baseball activities from tournaments to summer camps.

“Marsh Field has been in a state of decline over the past 10 years,” said Gawkowski, a West Michigan Subway sandwich shop franchise owner and developer of Extra Innings — a Norton Shores indoor baseball training facility.


Marsh Field also has a walking path as part of the recreational facilities at the city park.
A formal three-year agreement having the Lakeshore Baseball Club take over the operation and maintenance of Marsh Field is being put in final form by attorneys. The field would remain the home and practice field for the Muskegon High School Big Reds baseball team.

For other events, however, the club would have rights to the field’s gate reciepts and concession stand revenues.

“Marsh Field is one of the oldest minor league fields in Michigan,” Muskegon City Manager Bryon Mazade said. “It has a long history. The facility needs some work.”

For the city, an agreement with the Lakeshore Baseball Club would save city parks department resources during extremely difficult budget times. It’s a public-private partnership similar to the longstanding agreement the city has with a fishing group, which maintains and operates Fisherman’s Landing boat launch and camping facility.

Jim Grevel is a member of Lakeshore Baseball Club LLC and special events coordinator for Extra Innings. “Marsh Field is a very special place,” he said.

Marsh Field dates back to 1916. Founder Charles W. Marsh sold the site to the city in 1920.

Through the 1920, ’30s and ’40s, the covered grandstands held up to 4,000 screaming baseball fans on many nights. Those grandstands — built by Marsh who was the president of Muskegon’s Michigan State League team — survived until 1957.

Marsh Field reportedly provided a showcase for the likes of baseball Hall of Famers Charley Gehringer, Mickey Cochrane, Harry Heilmann, Johnny Mize and Satchel Paige to name some who played there. The baseball park was home to the American Legion leagues in the 1940s.

Marsh Field also hosted the Muskegon Lassies beginning in 1946. By 1948, the Lassies drew 78,000 fans and the Clippers courted 83,000 — the best attendance year for the ballpark, according to sports historians.

The Central League Muskegon Clippers faded in 1951. The last women’s baseball ended in 1953.

After the removal of the covered grandstands, the baseball field became home to the high school Big Reds. It has served Muskegon area high school and youth leagues ever since.

Gawkowski said his company wants to begin working on Marsh Field yet this fall in preparation for the 2010 season. Eventually, the group wants to build a new infield which could be up to a $40,000 investment. A new backstop, concession stand upgrades and security measures also are being planned, he said.

Historic Marsh Field in 1956 - Chronicle File Photo.

The Lakeshore Baseball Club has been asked to limit access to Marsh Field at the baseball field gates and not the facilities’ parking lot enterances. The Marsh Field property also has playground equipment, a walking trail and other general recreation areas that will remain open and free to the public.

The facility upgrades and Lakeshore Baseball Club’s sports contacts should boost the potential of hosting local and statewide youth baseball tournaments at Marsh Field, said Piasecki, president of the Muskegon ChannelCats youth baseball club. The potential is to have the facility used five nights a week by local and regional teams and host events for out-of-town teams every weekend.

Youth sports — like baseball, hockey, volleyball and basketball — have become big business as parents travel far and wide to have their children play on elite travel teams. All of that means tourism business for the community, according to Muskegon County Tourism Manager Jill Emery.

“Sports marketing is one of the top areas of growth for all convention and visitor bureaus,” Emery said. Sporting events generate hotel room nights and spending at local restaurants, gas stations and retailers, she said.

“Sporting events affect several sectors of our economy,” Emery said. “These events generate big bucks.”

For the owners of the Lakeshore Baseball Club, the Marsh Field initiative is simply about the love of baseball and the community.

“We want to polish a diamond in the rough,” Piasecki said

Saturday, May 9, 2009

2009 Muskegon Big Red Baseball Golf Outing

Bent Pines
2480 Duck Lake Road
Muskegon, MI 49461

Saturday, June 6, 2009

7:30 Check-in
9:00 Shotgun

4-person Scramble

$220.00 per Team or
$55.00 per person
(Single entries accepted to match with other players)

18 holes of golf
2 carts per foursome
Steaks, 2 sides, roll
Door prizes

Yes! We want to be a part of the 2009 Muskegon Big Red Baseball Golf Outing. The proceeds from this fundraising event support Big Red Baseball. You may register as a single or as a foursome. Below, please complete the names, addresses and phone numbers of all golfers. Send check and Registration by May 30.

Chris Hilliker for additional information at 231-329-3108 or 231–747-7713.






Make checks payable to:
Muskegon Big Red Baseball

Send entry form and check to:
Chris Hilliker, Big Red Baseball
2118 Deerwood Rd
Twin Lake , MI 49457

Enclosed $ ___________

Thursday, April 16, 2009

2009 Muskegon Baseball Teams

2 - Enrique Pena, OF/IF/P - Senior
3 - Elan Banks, OF/P - Senior
4 - Josh McMann, OF/IF/ P - Senior
5 - Xavier McCarty, OF - Sophomore
6 - Ben Klemm, IF/P - Senior
8 - Ben Carson, OF/IF/P - Junior
12 - Brett DeCheney, IF/P - Junior
16 - Nate Smith, OF
23 - Marshall Werling, IF - Senior
24 - Dennis Merritt, IF/P - Senior
32 - Justin Brownlee, IF - Senior
33 - Evan Saxe, IF/P/OF - Junior
34 - Randall McMurray - Player/Manager

10 - Tom Lopez - HEAD COACH
13 - Jesse Pena - ASSISTANT COACH
31 - Eric Alcorn - ASSISTANT COACH
Dexter Larabee - MANAGER

Junior Varsity
1 - Xavier Mccarty, OF/IF - Sophomore
3 - Sam Kohley, P/IF - Sophomore
4 - Jeff Shanty, P/IF - Sophomore
8 - Jamie Pesch, P/IF - Sophomore
10 - Terrance Spears, OF/IF - Sophomore
12 - Orlando Pena, P/IF - Sophomore
13 - Andra Jolly, P/IF - Sophomore
16 - Cameron Hunter, OF - Freshman
21 - Amario Hobson, P/OF - Sophomore
23 - Jared Holmberg, OF - Sophomore
24 - Mathew Murar, IF - Sophomore
31 - Troy Hurlbert, IF - Sophomore
32 - Jai'lyn Thompson, OF - Freshman
33 - Tom Geodert, IF - Freshman
34 - Brett Kammers, P/IF - Freshman

Chris Hilliker - HEAD COACH

Sunday, March 29, 2009

55 Wins in a Row - the legacy of Muskegon Baseball

It's hard to imagine any high school team accomplishing the feat, but between the seasons 1941-1945, Muskegon High School's baseball teams established a Michigan High School state record with a string of 55 consecutive victories. Even more astonishing is that the record was bested in the 1960's by Grand Haven's prep teams, who strung together 56 straight wins. It was a Grand Haven squad that had ended the Muskegon streak. Over 40 years later, Homer High School finally broke Grand Haven's mark with a national record 75 victories compiled during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

It's interesting to note that it took five years for Muskegon's team to total 55 wins, while Grand Haven needed only a portion of three seasons to win 56. It took Homer only two years to total 75 straight. My, how times have changed!

Here's an article from an old Muskegon Chronicle covering Muskegon's win streak. Click on the image for a large, easy to read version.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Muskegon Big Red Varsity Baseball Schedule

03/30/09 4:00 pm Muskegon Western Michigan Christian
03/31/09 4:30 pm Grand Rapids Creston
04/02/09 4:00 pm Whitehall (doubleheader)
04/14/09 4:30 pm Muskegon Mona Shores
04/15/09 4:30 pm @ Jenison
04/17/09 4:00 pm Jenison
04/20/09 4:30 pm Grand Rapids Central
04/21/09 4:00 pm Grandville
04/23/09 4:30 pm @ Grandville
04/24/09 5:30 pm Orchard View (doubleheader)
04/27/09 4:00 pm East Kentwood
04/29/09 4:30 pm @ East Kentwood
05/01/09 4:30 pm @ Rockford
05/02/09 9:00 am GMAA Tournament @ Mona Shores
05/04/09 4:00 pm Rockford
05/06/09 4:00 pm Grand Haven
05/08/09 4:30 pm @ Grand Haven
05/09/09 10:00 am Jon Hooker Memorial Invitational
@ Holland High School
05/11/09 4:00 pm @ Muskegon Western Michigan Christian
(at McCrea Field)
05/12/09 4:30 pm @ Hudsonville
(at Baldwin Middle School)
05/13/09 4:30 pm OK Red Rain date
05/14/09 4:30 vs. Hudsonville
05/15/09 4:30 vs. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
05/18/09 4:00 vs. Holland West Ottawa
05/20/09 4:30 @ Holland West Ottawa
05/22/09 4:00 @ Muskegon Catholic Central
05/23/09 10:00 am @ Grand Rapids Union (doubleheader)
05/26/09 Pre-Districts @ Holland West Ottawa
05/29/09 Districts
06/06/09 Regionals
06/09/09 Quarterfinals

Click here for more details on the varsity schedule. Click here for a copy of the Junior Varsity Schedule

Special thanks to all that came out for our

Second Annual
St. Patrick's Fundraiser for

Big Red

March 14, 2009 at

Dinner included: Steak, Potato, Garlic Bread, Salad, Dessert & Coffee

with entertainment by
the Carl Webb Band

Congratulations to the winners of our
* 50/50 Raffles * Door Prizes * Silent Auction *

A great time was had by all!

Thanks, of course, to all who bought tickets to the event!

In addition special thanks to all those who helped us stage this event, including the Big Reds Baseball Parents Group; Tatra Hall; all the volunteers that offered their time in the kitchen, clean-up, grilling steaks, making food and desserts, and decorating and our sponsors:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bowling Fundraiser - Sunday, February 22

The first of our annual fundraisers kicks off this Sunday, February 22 at1:30 at Sherman Bowling Lanes in Muskegon. Cost is $15 per person or $25 a couple and includes three games plus shoe rental. We'll also have a 50/50 raffle and Strike pot.

Contact Coach Tom Lopez at 720-3015 for tickets. Come out and support your Big Reds!

Paul Bard: A baseball legend

Local sports broadcasting legend Jim Moyes has returned to to the local sports pages. Once a stringer for the Muskegon Chronicle, Jim has started to write a series of articles on local sports that will cover a wide range of subjects, individuals and teams. His first article from the series appeared in early February, and focused on a former Muskegon Big Red, Paul Bard.

Bard was a starred in football, basketball and baseball for the Big Reds back in the early 1940s "whose college career at Western Michigan University was cut short because of service to his country."

The full article is currently available on on the web. Click the following link to check out the complete version: Paul Bard: A sports and war hero.

Bard's career on the baseball diamond, as pulled from the Moyes article.

Beginning with his first game during his Junior year of 1941, when he no hit the Montague Wildcats, Bard would go on to have a high school baseball career that arguably was the best in state prep annals.

Thousands upon thousands of players have played the great game of baseball at the prep level in the state of Michigan. Sixty-one years after Paul Bard played his last game at Muskegon High his legacy has been restored. Miraculously enough Hall of Fame baseball coach Harry Potter's scorebook, found recently collecting dust in his daughter's (Ann Moore) attic, gives authenticity to Bard's achievements.

The Big Reds were a perfect 26 and 0 in 1941 & 42 and here is where Bard ranks in MHSAA history.

  • Career ERA (Earned Run Average): 0.76 No 3 All time.
  • Season (1942) ERA: 0.11 No 1 All Time.
  • Fewest walks Allowed in a Season: 5 in 1942 No. 1 All Time.
  • Fewest Wild Pitches Career: (0 in 120 innings) No. 1 All Time
  • Strikeouts in a Game: 20 No. 2 All time.
  • Assists by a Pitcher in a Game: 11 No. 1 All Time.

Bard also was the cleanup hitter for Muskegon and was a lofty slugger. In 1941 he posted a batting average of .524 and a slugging percentage of .881. For his two-year career (1940 batting stats are unavailable) Bard crushed the ball at a .439 clip. As a fielder Bard went through the two seasons without committing an error.

Bard followed his amazing high school career by posting very similar numbers while twirling in the very competitive Tri-State League. On Saturday, August 17, 1942 Bard hurled a 4-0 nine-inning shutout in a City League game.

In looking back this may have been a very poor decision on Bard's (or his coach's) part. Two days later a group of area Muskegon All Stars assembled to play the Detroit Tigers at Marsh Field. The Tigers absolutely "bombed" the outmatched area stars while only Paul Bard was able to slow down the heavy hitting Bengals. Pitching on but one days rest Bard allowed one run in his first inning of work and retired the side in order in his second and final inning pitched. What kind of impression might Bard have made on the Tiger brass if he was fully rested?

Moyes notes that in February 1943, less then a year after graduating from Muskegon High School, Bard joined the Armed Forces, serving his country bravely.

"There is no question but that World War II prevented Paul Bard from achieving his dream of being a Major League Baseball player." recalled former classmate and former school board member, Ray Carlson.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Marsh Field

From the State of Michigan Historical Marker at the corner of Peck Street and Laketon Avenue

Marsh Field began its tenure as the principal home of Muskegon baseball when it was completed in 1916. Charles W. Marsh - a Muskegon civic leader, industrialist and sports enthusiast - spearheaded construction of the park, which he donated to the city in 1919. The first minor league franchise to play here, the Reds, was a member of the Central League. Muskegon teams were later part of the Michigan State and the Michigan-Ontario Leagues. The Muskegon Lassies of the All-American Professional League played here from 1946-1950. The last professional team played here in 1951. The location of the diamond has not changed since the park opened, and it has been the site of high school games and local amatuer baseball programs ever since. The original grandstand was raised in 1957.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How it all began - the story of Muskegon Baseball

Baseball at Muskegon High School begins with a single name.

The Big Red Marching band has William Stewart. Baseball has Harry Potter.

A graduate of Manistique High School in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Harry pursued a college career at Western Michigan University (then called Western State Normal). In the early‑1920s Harry was a three‑sport star at Western in football, basketball and baseball.

Following graduation, Potter turned down a professional baseball career with the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He accepted a teaching and coaching position at Crystal Falls High School and returned to the U.P. C. Leo Redmond, a teammate on the football squad with Potter during their days at Western persuaded Potter to join him at the high school as an assistant coach and physical education teacher in 1927.

Between 1927 and 1942, Potter handled the football and basketball second-team coaching duties at Muskegon High School, compiling an 84‑14‑3 mark on the gridiron and a 154‑62 record on the cage court. He became the school's head basketball coach in 1943, then Muskegon's varsity football coach and athletic director in 1947.

While the city of Muskegon had a long history of baseball, it wasn't until the spring of 1937, when Potter established a baseball program, that the Port City school took up the game. Competing at Marsh Field in Southwestern Conference, and later in Lake Michigan Athletic Conference competition, Potter led the Big Red baseball team for 30 years. Along the way, his team established a stellar reputation, that included a state record streak of 55 consecutive victories between 1941 and 1945. Before the days of Michigan High School Athletic Association baseball competition, his 1951 team scored a mythical baseball crown in a tournament in Battle Creek. Potter's skills helped develop professional ballplayers, including Bob Ludwig, a outstanding AAA prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization, John Huizenga, a AAA catcher in the Detroit Tiger system, Major League pitchers Ray Newman (Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and Tigers) and Jim Johnson (San Francisco Giants).

Potter's baseball squads grabbed S.W.C. conference crowns in 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1951 and 1952 and L.M.A.C. titles in 1962 and 1963. In 30 He retired from active coaching in1964, remaining as the school's athletic director until his retirement in 1966. He passed away in 1980.