By Tim Robinson
Special for Second Half
Zach Hopman has heard of Drew Henson, of course.
You can’t play for Brighton and not see Henson’s list of accomplishments during a stellar baseball career at Brighton a generation ago.
But Hopman, a left-handed hitter who plays right field and pitches for the Bulldogs, didn’t know until after he hit four home runs during a doubleheader May 21 that he was within shouting distance of Henson’s Brighton school record for home runs in a season.
The four homers Hopman hit on a cold, blustery day during a sweep of Ann Arbor Pioneer gave him 18 for the season, putting him within reach of the Brighton mark of 23, set during Henson’s junior year in 1997.
Only six players in state history have hit more homers in one season. Zach Fish of Richland Gull Lake set the record with 24 in 2011.
“The ball jumped off his bat in a way it doesn’t for a lot of guys,” Brighton coach Charlie Christner said. “It just takes off, and he’s been driving a lot of baseballs this season, and not just to right, but to all fields. It used to be that it was all pull, but this year he’s hitting gap to gap and driving the ball to right field.”
Hopman had six homers last season for the Bulldogs, but noticed an uptick in his power during summer ball.
He spent the winter working out with teammate Jack Krause when not participating in team offseason workouts.
“We would hit with the team twice a week,” Hopman said. “Jack and I would go every weekend, twice a weekend, to go hit at the Legacy Center. Sometimes when we got dismissed from school early, we would go and hit.”
That part of the routine has paid off, to be sure, but Hopman says he’s improved his approach at the plate, too.
“I think I’m seeing the ball a lot better,” he said. ‘I’m more selective with my pitches. That was a problem last year. I had trouble reading pitchers out of the pitcher’s hand. I think my swing is the same, but I haven’t really watched it to make a comparison.”
Hopman, who hits third for the Bulldogs, is part of the best hitting team (averaging .360 as a squad) in Christner’s seven seasons as Brighton coach.
“The guys in front of him have been getting on base,” he said. “Brendan Harrity and Jack Krause have been getting on a lot. And the guys behind him at 4-5-6 are all hitting at least .375. So you can do what you want to do to Zach (pitching-wise) but the guys behind him have picked it up, too.”
Hopman’s average has been around .500 all season, and his power numbers also have gotten him attention.
In that doubleheader against Pioneer, Hopman was 7-for-8 with the four homers and a triple. But a single proved memorable, too.
“My bat broke on one of my singles,” he said, grinning. “The knob fell off, and my hand was stinging for a solid inning.”
He’s not so bad on the mound, either. He pitched two innings of relief that Monday, with all six outs coming via strikeouts.
Hopman’s baseball roots run deep at Brighton. His older brothers, Carson and Trevor, both played for Brighton.
“They’ve been really supportive,” Zach said. “They come with me to hit at the high school on weekends, and they come to my games. It’s really nice that they’re here.”
His approach at the plate has been straightforward.
“I try to think middle,” he said. “A line drive up the middle. I don’t think about home runs, because then I’ll have a bad swing. I’m not trying to pull the ball any more. I don’t want to get into the home-run mentality.”
In other words, if the record comes, it comes.
And if it doesn’t, it still has been a senior season to remember for Zach Hopman.
PHOTOS: Brighton’s Zach Hopman has sharpened his swing to make a run at his school’s home run record set by Drew Henson. (Photos by Tim Robinson.)
Brad Bush, a highly-respected educator, administrator and coach over the last three decades, has been selected to serve in the position of assistant director for the Michigan High School Athletic Association, beginning Jan. 17.
Bush, 52, taught and coached at East Kentwood High School for four years before beginning a tenure at Chelsea High School in 1997 that has included teaching, then serving as athletic director and later also assistant principal and leading the football program as varsity coach from 1997-2002 and again from 2004-18.
He also has served as a statewide delegate on the MHSAA Representative Council during the last year and provided leadership in multiple roles, including president, for the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) since 2005.
Bush will serve as the MHSAA’s lead administrator for baseball and also among lead administrators for the officials program, which includes more than 8,000 registered officials in all sports. Bush also will be assigned additional duties in other sports based on his vast experiences. He was selected from a pool of 34 applicants.
“I’m incredibly excited to have Brad join our team,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. "He’s been an outstanding athletic director and coach who is highly-respected by those who know him.”
As Chelsea athletic director, Bush annually has supervised a staff of 110 coaches across 31 programs, with nearly 70 percent of the high school’s 800 students participating in athletics. As a teacher and assistant principal, he has served on Chelsea’s School Improvement Team and on multiple committees that provided instructional leadership including in the development of the district’s new trimester schedule. In his roles with the MHSFCA, Bush helped direct an organization with more than 2,200 members and also served as the association’s treasurer and liaison to the MHSAA.
Bush is perhaps best known, however, for his coaching success. Over 22 seasons, he led Chelsea’s varsity football team to a 169-60 record, 13 league championships, 18 playoff appearances, seven District titles and a Division 3 runner-up finish in 2015. During his break in tenure as Chelsea coach, Bush served as an assistant football coach and recruiting coordinator for Eastern Michigan University during the 2003-04 school year, and he has served as an assistant coach at Albion College the last four seasons contributing to the team’s two league titles and appearance in the 2021 NCAA Division III Playoffs.
“I feel like joining the team at the MHSAA is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Bush said. “The 26 years I spent at Chelsea were some of the best times of my life. It’s a professional transition that in the back of my mind, if this opportunity came, was something I needed to do.
“Over time, I’ve grown to care about the bigger picture of athletics and appreciate the role of the MHSAA in protecting high school athletics in Michigan.”
Bush is a 1988 graduate of Ypsilanti High School. He studied and played quarterback at Cornell University before returning and graduating from EMU after majoring in history and minoring in social studies. He earned his physical education endorsement from EMU in 2000 and his master’s in physical education and sports management from EMU in 2002. He has earned continuing education credits in sports management from Drake University and completed the Path to Leadership program from the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP).
Bush was inducted into MHSFCA Hall of Fame and Ypsilanti High School Hall of Fame both in 2019. He and his wife Laura have three adult children, two daughters and a son.
PHOTO Chelsea coach Brad Bush directs his team during the 2015 Division 3 Final at Ford Field.