Opponent 'Pinch Hits' as Translator

May 9, 2016

By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half

ALLENDALE – A few weeks after Forest Hills Northern second baseman Mitchell Gumbko “pinch hit” to help Allendale pitcher Javier Gonzalez bridge a language gap during a freshman baseball game, their story of sportsmanship continues to spread around the Grand Rapids area and beyond.

Pitching in his first high school game as a member of the Allendale freshman baseball team against Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern on April 18, Gonzalez was in a jam. Not only did he walk the first batter he faced, but he then committed a balk. With the umpire coming out to the mound to explain the situation, the jam only worsened as Gonzalez – who has been in the United States for only just over a year – speaks very little English.

In a society where winning is a major emphasis in sports, Gonzalez, however, picked up a major assist from the Northern batter who was due up soon.

Gumbko has been in the Forest Hills Northern school district’s Spanish Immersion program since he was in kindergarten. With Gonzalez continuing to struggle, Gumbko made his way to the mound with the coaches and umpires to give his opponent some help.

“I didn’t realize their pitcher was struggling so much,” Gumbko told Advance Newspapers/MLive last week, “but Coach (Joe) Payne asked if anyone speaks Spanish on our team. I have been in the Spanish Immersion program since kindergarten so I told Coach that I’m fluent in Spanish.”

Gonzalez’ coach Chad DeWeerd was happy for the help from the opposing dugout.

During Allendale practices, DeWeerd has been counting on freshman Cooper Tolson to give all the help he can. But explaining the balk rule required a little more explanation than the rest of the Falcons could offer their teammate.

“Before the game I let the Northern coach know that Javier speaks hardly any English,” DeWeerd also told Advance Newspapers/MLive. “My kids know a little Spanish, but not enough to help in that situation.”

DeWeerd had told Payne beforehand about Gonzalez and the language hurdle. “As I was walking to coach third base, the head coach from Allendale warned me that his pitcher does not speak English and that this is his first time pitching,” Payne said. “I told him not to worry.

“The Allendale pitcher looked nervous and uncomfortable, and you can tell he was unfamiliar with pitching. After walking our first batter, the next pitch he balked, which advanced our runner to second base. I saw the field umpire trying to explain to the pitcher what he was doing wrong, but the pitcher looked at him with a blank look.”

Payne informed the home plate umpire about the situation. After a few more pitches, and with Gonzalez continuing to struggle with the balk rule, Payne called on his player to step in and become a language pinch-hitter.

At Ada Vista Elementary, all subjects are taught in Spanish beginning in the first grade. Gumbko has become fluent in his second language.

“I needed Mitchell to become his coach instead of his opponent,” Payne said. “I asked the Allendale coach if I could call time out and have one my players translate to the pitcher.”

This time the conference on the mound became a lot more beneficial for Gonzalez, who had someone with whom he could communicate – even though he was wearing the opponent’s uniform.

“I think he was pretty surprised and also happy to be able to talk to someone he could understand,” Gumbko said. “The umpire told me what to say to him because he was balking, and he did not know he was doing it. It was pretty awesome to just know that I can use (Spanish) on a daily basis and was cool to realize I was helping him out.”

“You can tell Javier was nervous and did not know what was going on, until Mitchell started to translate instructions to him in Spanish,” Payne said. “Javier’s eyes just sparkled. Javier just kept nodding yes, ‘Si,’ and at the same time agreeing in Spanish back to Mitchell and understanding what Mitchell was saying.”

While Gonzalez’ teammates are not as familiar with the Spanish language as Gumbko, they have been trying their best to pick up as much as possible.

“The team has really embraced Javy,” DeWeerd said. “The first day of tryouts when they were stretching and loosening up they started counting in Spanish.”

“Cooper knows a little more Spanish than the rest of the guys,” DeWeerd added. “He has tried to help him as much as he can. The guys also have an app on their phone that helps with translation, and they have a lot of fun on the bus rides. This is a really special team and they have embraced Javy, and he really is one of the kids.”

Gonzales and his family of five, who are originally from the southern section of Mexico, have been in the United States for a year and a month. While he also enjoys soccer and was a member of Allendale’s junior varsity soccer team last fall, he has been playing baseball since he was a child and enjoys pitching the most. Along with pitching, Javy also plays right field for the Falcons.

Since the Northern game more people in the Allendale community have learned about Javy’s story – and offered assistance.

“Our 8th-grade Spanish teacher, Mrs. (Lynne) Burns, found out about Javy’s story and sent an e-mail to our athletic director offering to come and help,” DeWeerd said. “She is going to be at our next game. It’s not just the team that has helped out Javy, but the whole school is helping.”

Having Gumbko step up in that first game, however, was an act of sportsmanship that will be remembered for some time.

“I just stopped and realized this is why I am a teacher,” Payne also said in the Advance Newspapers/MLive report. “This is why I coach, for moments like this.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Allendale freshman baseball players Javier Gonzalez (left) and Cooper Tolson. (Middle) Gonzalez jogs on the field during a recent game. (Photos by Butch Harmon.) 

Longtime Chelsea High School Administrator, Coach Bush to Join MHSAA Staff as Assistant Director

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

December 21, 2022

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.

Brad BushBush, 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.