Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

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

Monday, June 10, 2013

Saying goodbye to Lamphere trainer Jim Martin

Better bring some Kleenex.
That might not be enough; a roll of Scott’s paper towels might be sufficient.
All right, just to be safe. A beach towel.
Tears will undoubtedly flow at a retirement celebration for Jim Martin, the athletic trainer at Lamphere High School in Madison Heights. The event will be from 3-6 p.m., Thursday, June 13.
“I just wanted to make a difference,” said Martin, eyes filling with tears. “I wanted to give back. Retiring from Lamphere is the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life.”
Even though Lamphere is in Oakland County, the Rams compete in the Macomb Area Conference. Hence, Martin has tended to student-athletes from Clawson to Clintondale to Cousino; from Madison to Mount Clemens to Marysville.
He has been the athletic trainer at the school for nine years. Prior to that, he was with the Madison Heights Fire Department for 25 years. He spent 15 years as a fire fighter, four as a fire inspector, and the last six as the fire chief.
“When I left the fire department, the idea of retirement looked good on paper. Not doing anything sounded like a good thing, but it really wasn’t so great,” said Martin.
So he spent a year as a substitute teacher in the Lamphere Schools. It was during the summer following that school year when athletic director Russ McKenzie needed someone to fill in as a trainer for the first couple of weeks of football practice.
“I knew that Jim had the training because of his background with the fire department,” said McKenzie. “He had been an EMT. I hired him for two weeks and that has been our running joke ever since. `Is the two weeks over yet?’”
The answer is finally yes. Martin has decided it is time to look after some much younger kids. Martin, 58, has four grandchildren; Alex, Chloe, Kiley and Kayden.
“Jim Martin is not just a part of this school, he is part of this community,” said McKenzie. “He exemplifies everything that high school sports are about; they are about chemistry not just within a particular team but throughout an entire school. Jim Martin definitely adds to that chemistry.”
While we chatted in the school’s training room Friday, a steady stream of student-athletes stopped by to see him. They offered kind words, and Martin volleyed those sentiments right back. Sometimes, those words were delivered in written form. Notes penned by students thanked him for his care. They thanked him, too, for caring.
“I wanted the students to know that I cared,” said Martin. “I wanted them to know they could trust me. I never represented any kind of threat to them. I am not a teacher or administrator. I don’t give grades. I don’t hand out detentions.”
He diagnosed injuries. He taped ankles. He reinforced knees. He wrapped Ace bandages and utilized gauze and salve. He also handed out advice. Sometimes it was as simple as RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation). Other times, it was on matters a long way away from the field of play.
He also helped to hand out futures. Several years ago, he started the Jim Martin Scholarship Fund. The annual award goes to a Lamphere student who wants to become an athletic trainer or do something else in the medical field.
Chelsea Thompson was this year’s recipient. She’ll be going to the University of Toledo and wants to get into physical therapy. Other winners have been Meghan Murley (Oakland University, nursing), Emily Griswold (Grand Valley, athletic training) and Andy Moats.
This year’s senior class donated $3,000 to the scholarship fund. That donation came before Martin’s decision to retire was made public.
“Of all the things that have happened to me, that donation from the senior class has to top everything. That meant so much. All I ever wanted to do was make a difference,” said Martin, tears pooling again.
The difference has been made. Jim Martin is retiring. He knows he made the right decision. It is time to help watch the grandkids. Still, that does not make the decision any easier.
Kleenex, paper towels or beach towels will be required equipment Thursday afternoon in the cafeteria at Lamphere.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Golf balls and moth balls

A buddy I haven’t seen for a while sent me a message on Facebook recently.
He asked if I wanted to play golf.
Immediately, I called a psychiatrist. She promptly cleared a couple of hours of her time. She told me to just relax and recline on her couch. I went into a fetal position. She showed me some ink blots. They all looked like divots. She showed me some more ink blots. This time, they looked like undulating greens.
She said Freud. I asked if his last name was Couples.
Just the mere mention of golf put me in a sweat. Can you get post traumatic stress disorder riding in a cart?
It is not that I hate the game. For the longest time, I loved golf. The trouble is, it was unrequited love.

I’ve played a ton of golf in my lifetime. You would never know it. I am absolutely horrible. I never took a lesson and it shows. My backswing is shorter than a hyperactive teen’s attention span. Pavel Datsyuk takes a longer backswing for his wrist shot.
I hit the ball straight. That is my only redeeming characteristic. The trouble is, it only travels 150 yards or so.
Imagine that, an adult male who cannot hit the ball even 200 yards. Talk about inadequacy. I feel like Pee Wee Herman in an MMA cage fight.
I can distinctly recall the moment I decided to quit the game for good. It was at a media day outing in Grand Blanc with the late Mark Andrews, a respected sports broadcaster and a good friend. Time and time again, Mark would out-drive me at Warwick Hills, the site of the former Buick Open.
Now a better man would not have been bugged by that. But Mark was 4-7. He was born with dwarfism. He stood tall in all walks of life, and he certainly stood taller than yours truly that summer afternoon.
Right then, I knew I was not cut out for golf.
Then again, I think I knew that years earlier, even as a kid when we’d go to Bogie Lake Golf Club in White Lake Township near where I grew up.
When I got older, I followed in the footsteps of my older brothers and went to caddy at Edgewood Country Club in Union Lake. I was not very good at it. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was nothing more than a mule carrying a rich guy’s bag. A mule with greasy hair, greasy skin and skin tone Clearasil dabbed on my face.
To get off golf for a second, but was I the only teenager who thought skin tone Clearasil was laughable. I mean, whose skin is that color? It rests somewhere between Silly Putty and chamois on the Sherwin Williams color chart.
Laughable defines my non-existent golf game. So when my buddy asked about golf Friday, I politely replied that I no longer play. I think I lied and said something about back surgery. Or maybe it was a rotator cuff surgery. Or maybe I told him I had pulled hammy, and I was not referring to Honey Baked and Swiss.
I told him I would drive the beer cart if it was an outing. Or I would stay back in the locker room and spit shine some Footjoys. Or I’d flip burgers back the grill.
Anything but actually play golf. It’s tough to putt from the fetal position.