Mark Brown doesn’t want any excuses or pity for the Detroit Edison high school baseball team he coaches, but given what the squad accomplished over the weekend and the obstacles it has to overcome each spring, it’s hard not to feel at least a LITTLE sorry for the team.
On Saturday, Edison advanced to the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 state championship game, which is an achievement itself to begin with.
The last time a team from Detroit advanced to a state final in baseball in any division was Detroit U-D Jesuit in 2006, and it should be noted U-D Jesuit is a private school where a good portion of its students come from affluent suburbs.
The last time it happened for a public school from Detroit was in 1972 when Detroit Western advanced to the Class A final.
Edison is a charter school that up until three years ago, was in the Detroit Public School League.
It’s hard enough for any school to get to a state baseball final, let alone a school in a city where prep baseball is an afterthought.
But the improbable nature of Edison’s run goes even further than that.
For starters, Edison doesn’t even have a baseball field to practice on.
“We practice on our football field,” Brown said. “It’s not bad. It’s all turf. But the optics make it kind of hard. You have the track team out there. You have the lacrosse team out there. It’s hard.”
There is a community diamond the team tries to practice on in the spring, but the grass is often so high that balls are lost and it’s not worth the trouble.
“Maybe one day we’ll get blessed and have a home field and a practice field,” Brown said.
Since there is no home field to practice or play games on, that means the entire schedule is pretty much filled with road games.
The only exception this spring was a pair of “home” games at The Corner Ballpark, the field built on the site of the old Tiger Stadium.
Getting funding for basic equipment and practice tools isn’t easy for the team either.
“There’s a lot to overcome, but we try not to think about it,” said the team’s best player, senior Greg Pace, who has committed to play in college for Michigan and might get selected high in next month’s Major League Baseball draft. “We just try and give our best effort every time and present the best versions of ourselves every day no matter the circumstances.”
But remarkably, Edison not only forges on, but does it well.
Even though the school is Division 3 in classification, the schedule for the Pioneers always features games against some of the best Division 1 and Division 2 programs in the state.
The team that is usually a roadblock in the state tournament is traditional Division 3 power Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, but Edison slayed that giant in dramatic fashion during the district round earlier this month.
Trailing 4-1 and down to the team’s last out in the seventh, Edison senior Keith Smith blasted a grand slam home run to left to give the Pioneers a 5-4 lead.
To view a video of the home run on Twitter, click or tap here for the incredible scene.
Pace then struck out the side in the bottom the seventh to preserve the win for Edison and open up a clear path the rest of the tournament.
Edison took advantage, outscoring its next four opponents 40-5 to advance to the state’s final four at Michigan State University.
Despite only collecting only four hits and committing three errors, Edison rode a couple of 2-out hits and some clutch pitching to earn a 3-2 win over Pewamo-Westphalia in a semifinal and advance to the championship.
In the championship game, Edison trailed Buchanan 3-1 going into its last chance in the bottom of the seventh, and nearly rallied.
The Pioneers loaded the bases with two outs, but on a full count, Buchanan ended the game with a strikeout.
Despite the defeat, Edison is still a group of champions when it comes to perseverance, positive energy and not giving up.
Much like its mantra everyday, there wasn’t excuses or pity needed in spite of the heartbreaking championship game loss.
With plenty of talented underclassmen on the roster, Edison will be back doing what it does best, which is grinding and excelling in the face of adversity.
“It means everything,” Brown said of making it to the final. “It’s a testament to hard work and guys believing in themselves and believing in the coaches. We teach no excuses, work as hard as you can, and good things will happen. This happened for us right now.”