There have been some area coaching greats inducted into high school coaching hall of fames, especially an elite group from Rogers City High School (RCHS). There’s the late Warren Gleason in wrestling, Howard Madsen in baseball and Bob Brietzke in football.
Longtime softball coach Karl Grambau, 66, will be added to the list. He will be inducted into the Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Friday (Jan. 26).
Grambau, who led the 2014 Huron girls’ softball team to a state title will have a picture and a plaque placed in the halls of the Michigan High School Athletic Association in East Lansing. He will be the only inductee in 2024.
Grambau is only the third ever softball coach in the history of the program, taking over for Charlie Fairbanks in 2003, who followed in the footsteps of founder Jerry Chrzan.
In 20 years of coaching softball, Grambau has had great players, all-state players, who went on to the next level. Plus, there is the long list of dedicated assistant volunteer coaches, who have helped to create a culture of winning.
At this point in Grambau’s career, his softball record is 531-206 with a .720 winning percentage.
“We have played against 107 different schools during my years coaching softball,” said Grambau, “And competed well against some of the biggest schools and best programs in the state through the years.”
Along with the state title, the Hurons were state runners-up in 2004 and made it to the final-four in 2013, 2018 and 2019.
“In 2005, we were ranked No. 1 the entire season and we lost in the pre-district, and that was a tough o
ne,” said Grambau. “We lost to my good friend, Gary Bisson, and the Hillman Tigers. Shortly after that, I got Gary to come over and assist us in Rogers City.
“I always say, we had the best team in Division 4 that year, but we just had one bad game.”
His teams have won 14 conference championships, 10 district championships and seven regional championships. His players were named all-state 44 times over the years including several who made it all four years of their high school career.
“I feel honored to be chosen because there have been a lot of great coaches in the state in Michigan, and I inherited a great program,” said Grambau. “When I took over for Charlie, I felt pressure to keep it going.
“I have had great assistant coaches through the years, Mike Grulke, who was just wonderful. There was Chuck Krueger, Gary and Paula Pietsch, and then ultimately Gray Bisson, who has been my righthand man. I would not have received this honor without the great volunteers.”
Richard Lamb, editor and publisher of Presque Isle Newspapers, has the honor of introducing his friend at the banquet in Mt. Pleasant. Lamb has probably seen Grambau coach more games than anyone else in covering sports for the newspaper since 1989.
“I’ve seen him coach more games than anybody and I have never seen him yell at a player. Mistakes are often made by high schoolers, but Karl is always positive in pointing out how players can improve. He is also positive and optimistic on his outlook on life, and it shines through on the softball diamond. I’ve seen him take players aside many times after games to offer encouraging words. He knows it’s just a game and he is a leader in bringing out the best in young people through encouragement,” Lamb said.
Grambau had the same thing to say about the players that have donned the school colors over years, and the ones that soon will be here.
“I enjoy the game and coaching,” Grambau continued. “It’s a new challenge every year.
“We do have a really good bunch of kids coming through Little League right now, who have had success at the state tournament, and they are excited about softball. I see another wave of kids coming through and it will keep Rogers City softball in good shape.”
In addition to softball, Grambau has also coached both boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball and cross country. He currently serves as athletic director for RCHS.