Friday, February 11, 2011

COLUMN: Creepin' on the coach

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || February 11, 2011

He says, “You’re on time.”

I think, how? How am I on time? I went to bed at 5 a.m., woke up 10 minutes ago, couldn’t find my keys five minutes ago and definitely forgot about this meeting a day ago.

“Always on time,” I say.

We walk into his office. He takes a seat in a black computer chair behind his desk. I take a seat in a comfortable maroon chair in front of his desk.

He asks if my recorder is running again.

“Always,” I say again.

There’s a color-coded schedule on the screen to his left. I think the time to invest in one might be right.

He tells me I can shut the door. On the back is a 1979 jersey — white with “Central” in maroon script across the chest, the No. 22 underneath and to the left.

“I think we have a good group of guys that learned a lot last year,” he says. “And I think that there’s still some unfinished business that they want to accomplish.”

He talks about winning the regular season again. About winning the tournament to get in.

“It’s not something I need to bring up everyday,” he says. “I think it’s just there.”

He wears a fat championship ring on his right hand. You can’t help but notice it there. He talks about playing day-in and playing day-out. About playing with fundamentals and playing to a potential. He talks about pitching, about defense and rarely, if barely, about offense.

“You want guys that can get you runs,” he says. “But you have to make sure you’re not giving the runs back to them.”

He talks about more pitching, more defense, and his phone rings.

The intro to John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” sings.

He takes the call and I creep on the plaques decorating the back wall.

There’s plaques celebrating a quarter century of leadership and devotion to baseball, his 300th win at Saginaw Nouvel High School, and 2004 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year honors.

And then there’s a plaque with Derek Jeter; the Yankees shortstop standing in the back row of a picture at the 1992 Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Game.

“We knew he was going to be good,” he says of the former Kalamazoo Central product. “I mean how good, well, nobody knew that.”

He stands in the picture a row below the future hall-of-famer.

“He just wanted to play in Tiger Stadium,” he continues. “There were no guarantees he was ever going to be a major leaguer so he just wanted to play.”

And eight days from the start of his ninth season at the helm of the Central Michigan baseball program, he just wants to play.

“I think we’re ready,” he says. “I’m getting excited.”

The Chippewas are ready. He’s getting excited.

And I’m 15 minutes late to class.

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