Historic Marsh Field Showcasing Muskegon-Area Baseball Under 'Friday Night Lights'

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

May 3, 2023

Fruitport’s Ryan Bosch took advantage of his moment underneath the “Friday Night Lights.”

West MichiganBosch, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, lined a two-out, bases-loaded single up the middle in the seventh inning Friday night to drive in two runs and the tie the score, 5-5. The Trojans didn’t let up, eventually scoring 10 runs in the top of the seventh for a 10-5 win over rival Muskegon Reeths-Puffer at historic Marsh Field in downtown Muskegon.

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” said Bosch, a dominating pitcher who verbally committed to the University of Michigan last month.

“It makes it more special doing it here at this field where so many pros and college players have come through.”

Fruitport’s thrilling comeback was just the latest in thousands of baseball games played at Marsh Field over the past 107 years, dating to 1916.

Marsh Field, the current home of the Muskegon Clippers of the Great Lakes Summer College League, has been the home of two minor league teams (the original Clippers and the Reds), the Muskegon Lassies of the All-American Girls Professional League and a “who’s who” of baseball greats from Harry Heilman to Grover Cleveland Alexander to Satchel Paige.

Reeths-Puffer third baseman Trent Reichert goes for the ball as a Fruitport baserunner closes in during Fruitport's seventh-inning rally in the 10-5 victory. The seven-week “Friday Night Lights” – featuring two West Michigan high school teams each spring Friday – was the brainchild of Clippers general manager Walt Gawkowski as a way to share the refurbished stadium with the community and provide a bigger stage for local high school baseball.

“High school baseball flies under the radar and doesn’t get near the attention of basketball or football,” said Gawkowski, a longtime Muskegon-area prep baseball coach who, along with his brother Pete, founded the new Clippers organization six years ago.

“We have the facility, and this is a way to promote baseball. It has been very well-received, and the crowds have been outstanding.”

Fruitport topped Ludington 15-0 in this year’s first edition of Friday Night Lights on April 14, followed by Central Montcalm’s 7-5 win over Greenville on April 21.

Remaining games in the series are Fremont vs. Hesperia (May 5), Muskegon Catholic Central vs. Muskegon Western Michigan Christian (May 12), North Muskegon vs. Muskegon Oakridge (May 19) and Muskegon Mona Shores vs. Grandville (May 26).

The latest edition of the series, played on a mild and calm Friday night, featured a crowd of about 400 who were treated to a pitchers’ duel between Reeths-Puffer’s Brayden Mitchelson and Fruitport’s Trevor Rusnak.

Puffer held a slim 1-0 lead for much of the game, before seemingly putting it away with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. First baseman David Wilhelm had the big hit with a two-run single.

A comeback seemed highly unlikely, with the bottom of Fruitport’s lineup leading off in the top of the seventh. But the Trojans loaded the bases on a hit batter, a single and a walk, then plated runs on a pair of walks and a sacrifice fly by Braxton Ward.

Reeths-Puffer's dugout keeps a close eye on the action, Bosch heads back to his team’s dugout, and a good-sized crowd stands for the national anthem. That set the stage for Bosch’s game-tying single, which ignited the Trojans’ dugout and crowd. Bosch, a physically intimidating left-hander who throws close to 90 mph, did not pitch in Friday’s game.

Fruitport pulled away on a run-scoring single by Andrew Spyke and a two-run triple by Jax Flynn.

The Marsh Field crowd was then treated to a local Michael Jackson impersonator doing a dance to “Billie Jean,” after which Fruitport coach Nick Reed received a surprise ice bath following the comeback – two things you don’t often see at a regular-season high school baseball game.

“We just tried to keep the energy up and stay positive,” said Bosch as he and his teammates celebrated on the field after the game.

“Once we got the bats going a little bit and got some guys on base, you could feel things turning. It was a lot of fun.”

Fruitport and Puffer, former rivals in the Seaway Conference who now compete in different divisions of the Ottawa-Kent Conference, could meet again in this weekend’s Greater Muskegon Athletic Association county tournament. Mona Shores is the defending GMAA champion.

Tom KendraTom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Fruitport 6-foot-8 sophomore Ryan Bosch, who recently committed to the University of Michigan as a pitcher, warms up at Muskegon's historic Marsh Field before a game in the "Friday Night Lights" series April 28. (Middle) Reeths-Puffer third baseman Trent Reichert goes for the ball as a Fruitport baserunner closes in during Fruitport's seventh-inning rally in the 10-5 victory. (Below, clockwise from top left) Reeths-Puffer's dugout keeps a close eye on the action, Bosch heads back to his team’s dugout, and a good-sized crowd stands for the national anthem. (Photos by Joe Lane.)

Softball Standout Finds New Home in Addison Baseball Lineup

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

April 23, 2024

ADDISON – Alisha Gahn has a new bat, new mitt, and new uniform this season.

Greater DetroitThe Addison senior didn’t transfer schools or move into a new district. She picked up a new sport – baseball.

“She’s doing really well,” said Addison head coach Rick Gramm. “She’s adjusted just fine.”

Gahn has had a love for softball from a young age and jumped into recreation and travel leagues early on while starting to pitch to her dad, Kelly.

She played for three years with the Addison varsity with her dad a co-head coach. When Addison decided to re-post the coaching job this past offseason, Kelly said he stepped aside. In the aftermath, Alisha decided to not play softball for Addison this spring.

Baseball became a possibility, and Kelly Gahn told his daughter he’d support whatever she decided.

“I just wanted to do something,” Alisha Gahn said. “I didn’t want to sit around and be sad that I didn’t play softball.”

She started attending Addison’s offseason baseball workouts.

“She told me she was leaning toward playing baseball rather than softball,” Gramm said. “We talked about it and checked into it. Opening day came, she showed up to the tryouts and she did well in the cage, and she throws the ball well.

“She’s just got a mind for the game. The rules of baseball and softball are basically the same, so she knows what she is doing out there.”

Gahn, who recently turned 18, is having a blast.

In a doubleheader against Tekonsha on Friday, Gahn went 2-for-3 at the plate. She’s playing mainly rightfield but also has been penciled into the Panthers lineup as a designated hitter.

The biggest thing for her personally is she’s no longer a pitcher. Last year she went 12-6 with 177 strikeouts in 107 innings for the Addison softball team in earning a Division 4 all-state honorable mention.

“Pitching is my thing,” she said. “That’s what I’ve done for years. That is what I did. That was my place on a team. That’s not my place in baseball.

It took some time to adjust to high school baseball pitching as well.

“The hitting is definitely different,” she said. “But I think that is what we work on as a team the most, so that helps.”

Gramm said Gahn - who hit .357 in 115 at-bats in softball last year - can hit on this diamond as well.

Gahn, at bat, steps into a swing.“We didn’t know how she would adjust to the pitching – the smaller ball, the distance (from the pitcher’s mound to home plate). She connects. She puts the ball in play. She does very good at the plate.”

Gahn said she likes baseball so far. She's even adjusting to her new mitt.

“I always knew there were differences between baseball and softball,” she said. “Whenever I watch Major League Baseball on TV, it looks like a bunch of guys trying to get home runs. After playing it, I like it. It’s pushed me and forced me to grow in the other positions.”

One of main differences is on the basepaths.

“On Friday, I got a hit and got on base,” she said. “My first base coach was talking to me. I got a little bit distracted, and I got picked off. I definitely learned something.”

Gahn said her new teammates have been great.

“Getting to know how to interact with a team of guys is different,” she said. “I have to find ways to connect with them. We are all playing the same sport, though. We are just players on the same team, just playing baseball. It’s slowly getting more comfortable. (But) there are times I miss playing on a team of girls.”

“She fits in just fine,” Gramm said of her move to baseball. “She’s part of the guys and part of the team. They just want to play and just want to win. The team has taken to her. They know her, and she’s part of that senior group anyways. I think she is having a good, fun time. It hasn’t been much of a transition at all. She’s been a welcome addition.”

Softball is still part of Gahn’s life.

Missouri is one of the few states that plays softball in the fall, which means travel softball season is in the spring. Gahn and her family pack up on the weekends and head south to play on a travel team, something the MHSAA allows since she is not currently playing softball in Michigan. It’s a seven-hour drive, one way.

“At first I was just going to go down south on the weekends and play softball,” she said. “Then I got to thinking what about baseball. We looked it up, went through the rules and it worked out perfectly. The MHSAA says softball is not the same sport as baseball. I can play baseball for Addison and go down south to play softball.”

Gahn, who also dances competitively and golfs – she tied for 18th in the latter at the Lower Peninsula Division 4 Final in the fall – wants to play softball in college. She’s talked to a few coaches, she said, who are supportive of her decision to play baseball this spring.

“I’ve put so much work into softball,” she said. “College is the next step for me. I’m super excited. At the end of the day, I just want to play softball.”

Gahn said her and her family did have a conversation about moving to a new district, but she was against that.

“I just want to graduate with my friends,” she said. “Sports are important to me, but I didn’t want to uproot my life. The easiest decision might have been to just move and go somewhere else. I didn’t want to do that. I’m happy right now.”

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Alisha Gahn hangs out with her baseball teammates in the dugout this season. (Middle) Gahn, at bat, steps into a swing. (Photos courtesy of Kelly Gahn.)