Bear Lake school board OKs baseball program

BEAR LAKE — After a 10 year absence, baseball will be returning to Bear Lake Schools for the 2018 season.

Members of the Bear Lake Board of Education discuss adding a boys baseball program at Wednesday's meeting. The board voted 6-1 to move forward with a junior varsity team this year.

Members of the Bear Lake Board of Education discuss adding a boys baseball program at Wednesday’s meeting. The board voted 6-1 to move forward with a junior varsity team this year.

Wednesday evening, the board voted 6-1 to put in place a junior varsity team this season. Board members Bethany Merrill, Charles Brooks, Greg Babinec, Shad Buckner, Eric Smith and Angela Eisenlohr supported the measure and Becky Fink opposed it.

A total of 19 Bear Lake students expressed an interest in forming a team at Bear Lake. The Bear Lake students currently have the option of playing under a co-op agreement with Onekama Consolidated Schools. Last year three students from Bear Lake chose that option.

Members of the public also weighed in on the issue during the public comment portion of the agenda.

Parent Julie Griffis said she thought a junior varsity program was the correct course of action.

“I have talked with lots of parents, a couple of the board members, but in the end we all want what is best for the kids,” she said. “I believe sports is a huge component to education and until today we hadn’t really talked to the kids on what they want to do. All but one of them said today they would be willing to play a junior varsity season.”

Griffis said the parents and boosters are always there for the kids at Bear Lake and she hoped the board would consider a junior varsity team for this year.

“Just know that there is an army of people in parents and community members that are willing to help because we believe sports is a huge component of school,” said Griffis.

A letter was also presented to the board from Sean Adams, whose son has played on the Onekama team under the co-op. He cited concerns that it might be better to wait until the 2019 season to start the junior varsity team.

“Waiting would afford the time to make a program more successful, he said. “According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association website, you can start baseball practice March 12. There is a lot of decisions that need to made in a very short amount of time. You currently have a field that needs a lot of work to make the field safe and respectable baseball diamond.”

Adams also commented that he felt a meeting of the parents would allow some feedback if there was a real commitment on the parents’ part that would enable the creation of a team.

During his regular monthly report, superintendent Marlen Cordes outlined the options.

“When we look at this tonight, we really have three options. The first one is to do nothing and remain as part of the co-operative with Onekama, and Bear Lake would not have baseball on their own,” said Cordes. “Another option would be to have a junior varsity team. The third option would be to go with a varsity team.”

Principal Sarah Harless detailed what transpired in the meeting Wednesday day with the kids who signed up.

“I called all the kids from eighth to 12th grade and I had everyone on the list who signed up plus three extra who hadn’t signed up,” she said. “I told them about the three options and the kids led the conversation. There were three seniors at the meeting one said ‘why don’t we do like we did in football and form their own varsity team?'”

Harless said this was unique in they were being dropped in football meaning they had no other choice than to start a varsity team. In this situation they have the option of both with a junior varsity and stay in the co-op.

“The kids thought the junior varsity would be the best solution because a couple of them haven’t played in a couple of years,” said Harless. “They thought they would be more confident on a junior varsity team in that they might have some scrimmages against some varsity teams.”

She said the students felt the junior varsity option would allow both those who want to remain with Onekama that option, but at the same time giving the others that want to play junior varsity that option.

“All the kids had the chance to speak, but not one was opposed to having a junior varsity team,” said Harless. “I told them whatever decision is being made is not being done for one kid or for 19 kids. I told them board is looking at every kid in the school. So it was a very positive meeting.”

Cordes said he thought it kind of mirrored what took place in football.

“We had three or four players playing football in the co-op, and then we had our own team and a lot more came out,” he said.

During the discussion prior to the vote, both Smith’s and Fink’s major concerns about playing this year was the field being in condition for this season. After not being maintained or used for the past decade it needs a lot of work, but other members of the board and Cordes felt they could address those issues in a timely manner.

Smith said the magnitude of the job may be more than the time they have to do it before the season would start.

“It’s going to take a lot of work and hoes, rakes and shovels are not going to cut it,” said Smith. “The scary part is we are not going to know where we are until the snow is gone and practices start in March. That is my only reservation on this program. That field is so far gone that you almost have to start from scratch.”

Fink agreed and thought the best course of action would be to wait a year.

“I have that reservation as well and maybe we should just wait until summer, evaluate the field and get it ready for next year,” said Fink.

“I agree and it almost hurts me to say it,” added Smith.

Board president Bethany Merrill said referring to her family business that she knew where they could get some of the needed equipment to do the work that was needed.

Action was also taken by the board at the meeting to move the July and November meeting dates due to conflicts. The July meeting will move from July 12 to July 18 and the Nov. 15 meeting to Nov. 7.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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