by Peter Jakey–Managing Editor
One of the area’s greatest Little League advocates will be honored as the parade grand marshal, May 11.
Pat Kowalski, who is celebrating his 30th year of coaching varsity baseball at Posen High School, has accepted the honor and will lead the parade through the streets of Rogers City, starting at noon.
“It’s very cool and an honor,” said Kowalski, who was caught off-guard by the invitation.
Kowalski coached Little League when his son, Jason, was making his way through the program.
It was a five-year journey from the minors on up that included a trip to Comstock Park for the state tournament when his son was 13 years old.
“It’s where I got my start,” said Kowalski. Thirty five years later, he is still coaching.
On Monday, because of the cancellation of a doubleheader against Oscoda, Kowalski had his troops inside the gym for practice. He gave pitching tips to sophomore Chase Dubie, telling him to keep his shoulder down while throwing. He also had the youngster practice some pickoff throws.
“You can start playing any time, but to be really proficient at the game, you have to start at an early age and learn the fundamentals,” said Kowalski.
The Posen coach took the 1999 and 2000 teams to the state finals in Battle Creek with the 2000 legendary squad, earning runner-up honors. The signs at the north and south village limits have hailed the accomplishment ever since.
Kowalski was elected into the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2010. He was recognized at a Hall of Fame banquet in Grosse Pointe, June 20, 2010 and during the East-West high school all-star game pre-game introductions the next day at Comerica Park in Detroit.
Hall of Fame coaches Howard Madsen (Rogers City) and Rick Guild (Johannesburg-Lewiston) nominated Kowalski.
At the time of his induction, he had 371 wins, but since then, it is up to 482.
Even though it has been three decades since he coached Little League at South Shore Park in Rogers City, he had some advice.
“Tell them to play all the positions,” said Kowalski. “And everyone should have an opportunity to get on the mound and learn how to pitch.
“And the other thing about pitchers – no Little Leaguers should throw a curveball. The latest philosophy is, no curveballs until age 15, because the arm is still developing.”
Kowalski said he has seen many young ballplayers with arms that are shot by the time they get in high school.
“You are throwing a changeup the same way you throw a fastball and there is no strain on the elbow,” he added.
Interestingly enough, Kowalski’s Vikings will be in Rogers City on the day of the parade for the annual baseball tournament on Steven Schalk Memorial Field. That will more than likely mean someone else will be in the third base coaches’ box. That will be a rare sight indeed.
“My assistants will be able to handle it,” said Kowalski.
Will Kowalski keep his shoulder down and throw that perfect strike?
Last year’s grand marshals were Matt and Jackie Quaine.