Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The real Craig's list: Playing for the Yankees

If Craig Bynum had access to as much pixie dust as he does the dust of the swirling variety that comes off the Grapes of Wrath infield on the ball diamond at the city park in Clawson, he’d make it to the major leagues as quick as a fleeting thought.
If Bynum could click the heels of the baseball cleats he wears as a captain of Coach Ralph Haney’s Clawson High School varsity team, he would be someday hunkering down at shortstop in Yankee Stadium.
"The Tigers are definitely my favorite team, but Derek Jeter is one of my favorite players," said Bynum, who just completed his junior year. "That’s why I wear number two. He’s from Kalamazoo, too, so he’s from Michigan."
Bynum realizes the odds of making it to the major leagues are astronomical. Still, we’re talking about a young man’s dreams and pixie dust.
Actually, we are also talking about a very talented player.
Bynum batted a sizzling .525 for the Trojans this season. He had 42 hits in 80 plate appearances. He also walked seven times and only struck out six times. His on-base percentage was a stunning .567.
Clawson coach Ralph Haney and
shortstop Craig Bynum. (Liz Carnegie/Daily Tribune)

Even though he played shortstop where fielding chances are more plentiful than Botox at Joan Rivers’ house, he only had six miscues.
"Craig was our Most Valuable Player. He has been a team captain for two seasons, and next year will make it three seasons," said Haney. "He’s a three-year leader offensively, and is our best defensive player."
There’s something else about Bynum that makes him special. He has a certain selflessness. In an era where self-congratulation is the norm, he’d rather pat others on the back. In a society full of people who point cameras at themselves all of the time, he prefers the focus is on others.
When asked about a personal highlight from this past season when Clawson enjoyed a 7-3 record in the Macomb Area Conference’s Silver Division and 20-8 overall record, he instead pointed to a key hit by a teammate that brought the Trojans one of their wins.
"A highlight would’ve definitely been when Billy (Feldbush) got the game-winning hit against Lakeview," said Bynum. "That was a big victory for us. Lakeview beat us the second time we played them, though, and they wound up winning the league."
Clawson finished second in the division, one game in back of the Lakeview Huskies.
Bynum first picked up a bat in earnest when he was six years old; that’s when he began whacking a ball off the tee in Madison Heights, his hometown.
A handful of years later, he was on one of the fields behind John Page Middle School when he stroked a bases loaded homer that gave his team a dramatic victory. The Cubs would go on to win the World Series that season.
That success sparked something in Bynum. Pretty much from then on, there’s been no other place he’d rather be then on a baseball diamond.
"When I’m playing baseball, nothing else in the world matters. I don’t think about anything other than baseball. There is nothing better than playing baseball," he said.
Bynum will be on the field for the St. Clair Shores Mariners this summer. He also plans on once again playing football for Clawson High after taking his junior year off. He played as a freshman and sophomore.
"I know if I don’t play my senior year that I’ll regret it," he said.
Bynum will be used both in the defensive secondary and a slot receiver. He has also wrestled three seasons for the Trojans, persevering through the nasty acclimation period that sport doles out to all newcomers.
"I was 6-19 as a 125-pounder my freshman year," he said, cringing slightly. "Why did I stick with it? I guess I had that drive to get better and improve."
The next season, he won 10 more matches and finished 19-27 at 130 pounds.
"As a sophomore, l lost in regionals to Joe Rendina of Dundee, who was the number one ranked wrestler in the state and something like number three nationally. He pinned me in 28 seconds and I don’t even know how he did it. He was that good. I just had to laugh at myself afterwards," said Bynum, smiling.
There was another sort of smile following his junior season of wrestling. He won 21 and lost 19. The Clawson team won a district championship, something else he is extremely proud of.
"Every win was exciting," said Bynum.
But to him, real excitement can only be found amidst the swirling dust on the ball diamond in Clawson. That’s where Bynum feels truly at home.
Yankee Stadium could be his home someday, too. Jeter can’t play forever, can he?
The Clawson "Hitters Club" Baseball Clinic for players ages eight to 14 will be held Tuesday, June 26, through Thursday, June 28, at the City Park.
The cost is $50, and players must arrive promptly by 9:30 a.m. The camp will run until 1:45 p.m. every day.
There will be eight stations per session where players will learn hitting, infield and outfield fundamentals. Each participant will receive a clinic T-shirt and awards will be given out daily.
For more information, call 248.613.6525 or 248.589.9063.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This kayak is a different type of travel site

I went kayaking today.
Nothing too impressive; I was not running any whitewater. Instead, I was at Stony Creek Metropark near Rochester. I was using the kayak purchased as a Father’s Day gift.
Nope, that is not me. It's a picture of a stranger I found on the internet. Pretty impressive fish, huh?
That was Father’s Day 2011. I loved the gift, but it did not come with a paddle. The paddle came as a Christmas gift.
But there was no roof rack to transport the kayak and my aging subcompact did not have the room to carry it inside the vehicle.
So I waited things out. The roof rack came for Father’s Day 2012. I knew I’d get it eventually on the water.
So I went out and we got acclimated today. There’s something so placid and natural about a kayak moving on the water.
What I really want to do is go fishing in the kayak. I figure I can get to all of those beckoning spots that you cannot access in a bigger boat or even from shore.  Slide through the lily pads. Slink past the cat tails.
I used to fish a lot as a kid. We would go every day in the summer. Breakfast meant doughnuts and coffee on the water.
That is the kind of breakfast I am really looking forward to these days. Doughnuts, coffee and bass. Only the largemouth will be going back into the water. I don’t like to eat fish anyway. Especially not with a glazed cruller.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Taking care of the homefront

Danny and Lindsay sitting in a tree; K-I-S-S-I-N-G; First came love …
All right, so there is a variation on that old school yard song.
Danny Gough, a former Marine, is at home in Clawson with their three kids; Dylan, Isaiah and Brennan.
Danny’s wife, Lindsay, a Navy veteran, is in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The old school yard song meets the reality of 2012.
“It’s hard, but we will get through it,” said Danny Gough. “Most of the time, when I start complaining, it is about laundry. Our daughter, Brennan, wears more clothes than is humanly possible.”
With that, he started laughing. Brennan, who is four years old, was playing with her two brothers in the city park in Clawson earlier this week.  Dylan is eight. Isaiah is 5.
Danny Gough is a great Father’s Day story.
Lindsay was deployed to Afghanistan on Christmas Eve 2011.
Danny and Lindsay met on his 19th birthday. He was stationed in Hawaii and Lindsay, who grew up in Hawaii, was walking by him on the street in Waikiki. He was already in the Marines, and she would soon join the Navy. Deployments and the warm and fuzzy nuclear family unit don’t always hold hands.
Danny and Lindsay were friends for three years before things evolved into a relationship.
Danny Gough grew up in Clawson. He played all the youth sports in his hometown, and eventually played football, basketball and ran track at Clawson High School.
Two months after he graduated, he was in the Marines.
“I’m from a family of Marines,” said Danny Gough. “I have a couple of uncles who were in the Marines and I always looked up to them. I wanted to be a Marine since I was little.”
Eight years in the Corps, and now he is commanding a battalion of three. Danny and Lindsay’s youngest, Wyatt, died of Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome when he was 13 months old.
“Wyatt was always very healthy, and then he died in his sleep. It was hard to understand then, and it is still very hard,” said Danny Gough.
Difficulties come at different levels. Day to day routines can be hard, too. During the school year, it’s up at 6:30 a.m. That begins the daily cereal controversy. Frosted Mini Wheats or Cinnamon Toast Crunch? Cheerios or Captain Crunch? Count Chocula or Rice Chex?
“I never have the right cereal,” said Danny Gough, smiling. “Whatever cereal they want isn’t the cereal we have.”
Dad gets Dylan to Schalm Elementary School. Isaiah and Brennan both were in the early childhood/preschool program a few hours a day.
Dad gets the kids to school. He volunteers in their classrooms. He goes on field trips.
When the school day ends, practice begins. There’s soccer and football. There’s basketball and baseball. There are the kids on the field and dad on the sidelines.
Dad is also a coach. This fall he’ll be handling the varsity team for the Clawson Mavericks youth football organization.
Get ‘em to school. Get ‘em to practice. Get ‘em to bed. Then hit rewind.
“You know, the same reasons why you might not like your hometown when you’re younger are exactly why you love it as you get older,” said Danny Gough. “Everybody knows everybody else. Everybody knows your business. The school secretary always told my mom what I did in school because she always walked by our house.
“Well, it drove me crazy when I was younger, but now I find comfort in it. I still see people I played sports with all of the time. I can’t go anywhere without running into some of my football players from the Mavericks. I’ll get calls if they aren’t doing well in school from their parents asking if I can talk to them,” he said.
“I miss my wife every day,” he said. “We are husband and wife. We are partners. When we are together, we go to school functions together. We go to games together. If I’m coaching and I turn around and look in the stands and she’s not there, I miss her even more.”
Lindsay Gough will be home for three weeks in July. She could be coming home for good in January.
Mom’s busy defending our freedom. Dad’s busy taking care of the home front. Happy Father’s Day, Danny. Happy belated Mother’s Dad, Lindsay.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

These Tigers can't catch a cold, the flu or a baseball

I’m usually a pretty patient guy.
If I’m stuck in a traffic jam with temperatures in the 90s and cars so close I can tell if the driver in the car in front of me had onions on his coney, I just turn on the radio and sing Kumbaya.
If I am in a restaurant and pretty much everybody else has been served including the caravan of Bedouins who arrived 45 minutes after me, I just shrug and ask for more water and maybe some Saltines.
But do you know what? I am getting extremely impatient with the Detroit Tigers.
They cannot seem to make the most fundamental plays. They couldn’t move a runner from first to second base with a forklift.
On the rare occasions when they attempt to bunt, most of them look like Steve Urkel break dancing. They jerk. They squirm.  They fail miserably.
But worst of all is their miserable fielding.
Did anyone else have the unfortunate circumstance to watch shortstop Jhonny Peralta in the eighth inning at Wrigley Field Tuesday night? He made a couple of the worst throws this side of a Bad News Bears remake. The first, he short-armed an easy toss to second base.
The runner was safe.
On the second, he neglected to even bother to set his feet after fielding a simple ground ball, and his errant throw ripped Prince Fielder’s foot off the bag.
The runner was safe.
The Cubs scored the winning run in that inning.
Can you imagine pitching for the Tigers? You can’t even let the opposing team put the ball in play for fear it is going to be pinballed all over the field.
Peralta is hardly the only culprit. Fielder is no Golden Glove winner himself. If anything, he’ll get the Steel Glove because of how often the ball seems to clank off his mitt.
If I have to watch Delmon Young misplay another ball in leftfield, I’m going to have to go in for an ink blot test and blurt out that every smudge looks like an error.
I can handle the stranded base runners. I can handle the occasional bad outings by the pitchers. What I can’t take is a team that fields as atrociously as the Tigers. There is no excuse for it, not at the major league level.
Give me a traffic jam. Give me lousy service at a restaurant. Just don’t give me these Tigers. I am losing my patience.