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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.


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