Pilots' Phenom Always Drawn to Diamond

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

April 19, 2018

WARREN – Baseball, at its core, is a simple game. Throw a baseball, try to hit it and then catch it.

And that was more than enough to hook Bryce Bush.

“Baseball was first,” Bush said when asked which sport initially grabbed his attention. “My dad got me started. I was 3 years old. We’d always hit, play catch. Everyday. I just liked it.”

Bush has been all in ever since. One of four underclassmen selected to the 2017 all-state Dream Team by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association, Bush is a 6-foot, 205-pound infielder at Warren DeLaSalle. He started at first and third base his sophomore season and played those two positions plus outfield last year before moving to shortstop this spring.

“I’m the best athlete on the team,” he said. “I’m used to it. It used to be my primary position. At shortstop, you’re in control of the whole infield. (Playing) third base was harder. You have to come in on balls, and that throw (down the line) is one of the hardest to make.”

For some, the transition would be a difficult challenge. But Bush, 18, isn’t your typical high school player. He has all the tools. He can run, hit for power and field his position. Pencil him in anywhere, and he’ll succeed.

Bush said he’ll likely play third base or right field at the next level. Just where at the next level has yet to be determined. He signed with Mississippi State University, and it’s likely he’ll be selected in the Major League Amateur Draft in June.

Where he’s headed next will be decided at a later date, and Bush said he doesn’t think about it that much. He said there were 10 major league scouts at his last game.

“I have no clue at all," he said of which round he'll be selected. “(The scouts) try to make it as hard as possible trying to figure it out. It’s really no big deal. I have a good backup plan.”

Until then, Bush’s focus is on this season and what he can do to make himself a better player while helping his team any way he can. Last season the Pilots reached a Regional Semifinal before losing to Sterling Heights Stevenson, 5-4. In 2016, DeLaSalle won the school’s fourth baseball Finals championship as the Pilots defeated Saline, 7-6, in the Division 1 championship game.

Bush and the other 15 returning players from last season have a new coach. Dave Zelmanski, a 1974 DeLaSalle grad, was hired after Matt Cook left the program to take over at Grandville.

Zelmanski had never met Bush before last fall. The new coach was a pretty good player in his day, having played four seasons at Wayne State University – but he said Bush is special. Zelmanski compares his introduction to Bush to when he was invited to a Detroit Red Wings practice about 15 years ago before he became a sales representative.

“I was working at Chrysler at the time,” Zelmanski said. “And I’m meeting guys like (Joey) Kocur, (Brendan) Shanahan and others. Then I saw (Steve) Yzerman. He was it. Just the way he carried himself. When I went to meet the (DeLaSalle) team, I saw Bryce, and he was it.

“I was talking with Jake Badalamenti, he’s one of our better players and he was part of the state championship team for football. He was in the (batting) cage, and I asked him where Bryce was. Jake takes me aside and he put his hands at his chest and said, ‘Coach we’re all here, the rest of us.’ Then he raised his hands over his head and said, ‘That’s where Bryce is.’

“(Bryce) is as quiet as a church mouse. He’s the nicest kid. And there isn’t anything he does that the other guys can do.”

Bush has what some call “God-given” talent. And it’s easy to see why.

His father, Elwood Bush III, grew up on Detroit’s west side and played baseball at Detroit Cooley. He went on to play at Hinds Community College in Mississippi and on the National JUCO championship team in 1989. Bush’s uncle, Ricky Bush, played at Jackson State, and his grandfather also played baseball.

Bush also has a brother, Ryan, 25, who chose basketball and was a good player at Berkley High.

Bryce Bush played basketball too but stopped after his freshman year to concentrate on the diamond.

In addition to his natural abilities, Bush is determined to out-work the competition. He works at his trade six days a week, taking Sundays off. He’ll run a half mile or so to begin his workouts before going into light stretching and then a more strenuous stretching exercise called dynamic warm-up. Many of these stretching exercises focus on his legs and arms.

He’ll then work on his footwork and field ground balls for 20 minutes or so.

He ends his training hitting with his teammates or, if he’s alone, in a batting cage. He’ll use a 35-ounce bat at the start to get loose, then go to his favorite wooden bat. Hitting alone takes an hour.

“I remember when I was 3, maybe 4 years old,” Bush said. “And I’d use a toy golf club and just start swinging it. I hit a wall with it sometimes.

“Honestly, I like everything about baseball. The best feeling is, of course, hitting a home run.”

Last season Bush hit 16 home runs to go with a .541 batting average. Through five games this season, he’s hit just one home run – but it was a memorable one against Birmingham Brother Rice.

“The wind was blowing in hard,” Zelmanski said. “Nobody was going to hit one out that day, and (Bush) just crushed one. I mean, it’s hard to say how far it went over the fence, but it had to go 20 or 30 feet beyond. Nobody could believe he hit it that far.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Warren DeLaSalle’s Bryce Bush applies a tag against Lake Orion. (Middle) Bush, after playing a variety of positions over the last two seasons, will line up primarily at shortstop this spring. (Photos courtesy of the Warren DeLaSalle baseball program.)

No Runs, No Hits: East Jordan Aces Toss 4 Straight Shutouts, 3 Straight No-Hitters

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

May 17, 2024

Playing shortstop this year for East Jordan High School admittedly has become rather boring at times.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThere hasn’t been a whole lot of action at what’s usually the busiest spot in the infield — no matter who is playing it.

Junior Eli Burns knows that better than anyone. He is the Red Devils’ regular shortstop. He also pitches.

Ryder Malpass knows what it’s like to play short this season as well – he’s normally in the spot when Burns is on the mound.

But he also has a feel for how little the shortstop does regularly for the Division 4 No. 16 Red Devils from his usual spot at catcher – receiving behind the plate for a pitching staff averaging almost two strikeouts per inning. 

Just recently, East Jordan put together three straight no-hitters and four straight shutouts.

“It’s good,” Burns said of playing short. “When you have confidence with your pitchers you don’t have to worry about the ball being hit to you that much.”

Ryder Malpass keeps an eye on a runner before making his move toward the plate. Malpass, a junior, started the shoutout string himself with a 4-0 win over Bellaire last week, when he earned the win throwing 5 1/3 innings with seven strikeouts while going 2 for 3 at the plate with a double and RBI. Junior Korbyn Russell closed out the game.

Then Burns started the no-hitter run in the second game that night with Bellaire, a 6-0 Red Devils win. Burns had 10 strikeouts and just a single walk allowed. He also tripled in the game.

This week the no-hitter string continued with 1-0 and 2-0 wins over Boyne City. Russell and senior Lucas Stone threw the Red Devils’ third and fourth no-hitters of the season.

Stone threw a perfect game across six innings. He struck out 12 batters on just 70 pitches and also went 2 for 3 with an RBI against the Ramblers. Russell earned the 1-0 win over Boyne City with 5 1/3 no-hit innings behind 11 strikeouts and with just a lone walk allowed. Stone followed Russell to pick up the save for the Red Devils, now 13-9-1 overall on the season and 6-4 in Lake Michigan Conference play.  

Russell is 6-2 on the season with two saves. Going into Thursday’s game with Charlevoix, he had struck out 92 batters over 42 innings while compiling a 0.86 ERA. Stone is 5-2. Before suffering his second loss of the season to the Rayders, his ERA was 1.17 and he had fanned 38 in 36 innings of work. Burns has racked up 17 strikeouts so far in just over 14 innings.

“It’s pretty special to be a part of something not many teams can do,” Russell said. “We have a special group of pitchers to get the job done.”

Stone credits the Red Devils’ defensive play for the pitching staff’s success.

“Our defense has helped the pitching a lot because they don’t make a lot of errors,” Stone said.  “It makes it a lot easier when you know they are going to make plays behind you.”

Korbyn Russell prepares to unload a pitch.East Jordan came into this week beginning to approach the state records for consecutive shutout innings and games. That ended yesterday in twin bill losses to Division 3 No. 11 Charlevoix. But the Red Devils still can chase the national record of nine no-hit games in a season. (No official record is kept for no-hitters by a Michigan high school team in a season.)

There is also no known record of any East Jordan team racking up three no-hitter wins in a row.

“I don’t think there’s been any stretch with three no-hitters in a row, so that is pretty special,” noted East Jordan coach Adam Grybauskas. “We’re kind of picking up where things were last year and trying to build on last year’s success and make it even better this year.”

The Red Devils captured a Division 4 District championship in 2023 and then a 9-6 Regional Semifinal win over Gaylord St. Mary. The season came to an end in the Regional Final with a 2-0 loss to Painsdale Jeffers.

Russel, Stones and Burns were on the pitching staff last year as East Jordan made that run. The Red Devils will host the District tournament this year as familiar opponents Bellaire, Central Lake and Ellsworth will vie to stop East Jordan’s attempt at repeating as champion. The doubleheader loss to undefeated Charlevoix ended the Red Devils’ hopes of sharing the LMC title with the Rayders.

“I think we’ve played a little bit better competition this year,’ Grybauskas said.  “Our focus this year is taking each doubleheader at a time, and try to get better each week.

“It’s really been game by game and week to week,” he continued. “You’re always looking to do better than last year so obviously that will be something we’ll talk about in the future.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) East Jordan’s Lucas Stone winds up during a game. (Middle) Ryder Malpass keeps an eye on a runner before making his move toward the plate. (Below) Korbyn Russell prepares to unload a pitch. (Photos courtesy of the East Jordan athletic department.)