Pro Stars Cherishing St Clair Roots, Support

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

November 11, 2020

It’s been nearly 10 years since Jacob Cronenworth and Tyler Motte were teammates at St. Clair High School, but the pair still managed to energize their hometown in 2020.

Cronenworth tied for second in the official National League Rookie of the Year voting, which was announced Monday – and won several Rookie of the Year honors from other organizations, including his fellow players – after a standout first season with the San Diego Padres. 

Motte was a key cog for the Canucks as they made a run to the Western Conference semifinals, scoring four goals and adding an assist in 17 playoff games, and earning himself a two-year contract extension in October.

And as the folks back home were reveling in that success, both were happy to have the support.

“The support of our town has been crazy throughout my career, even back when I was at Michigan,” Motte said. “When you have the support of not just your friends, family and loved ones, to have it go to an even bigger population where you grew up, that’s cool to see.”

Motte and Cronenworth provided plenty of great memories while students in St. Clair, most notably helping the Saints win the 2011 MHSAA Division 2 baseball championship. Cronenworth was the winning pitcher in the title game, while Motte had two hits and scored what turned out to be the winning run against Grand Rapids Christian.

“Obviously, that was an incredible team,” said Cronenworth, who was a junior that season. “We only lost one game the whole year. It was just a special group of guys. We were all friends, we all played little league together. We’d all play street hockey and basketball together in the summers. It was a great way to cap off our childhood.”

That team featured 10 players who would go on to play college athletics. Two – Joel Seddon and Jared Tobey – joined Cronenworth and Motte as professional draft picks, as they were both selected in the MLB Draft. Another, Jeremy Carrell, is now the Detroit Tigers bullpen catcher.

Most of the players on the title team had been playing together since Little League, where they also had plenty of success, taking second in the state in 2006 before a handful of them came back and took third the next year. As they stayed together, the wins kept coming.

“I think at the time (2011), with that group of people, our eyes were on a state championship,” Motte said. “I was in more of a supporting role, because we had a lot of good baseball players. Just looking back, it was kind of crazy.

“Going through with those guys and how much fun we had in Little League really made the camaraderie we had in high school so much stronger. We had guys that really cared about each other, and that’s what made it really fun.”

The 2011 Division 2 Final was Motte’s final competitive baseball game, as after his sophomore year he joined the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor. He had planned to continue playing baseball while going to school at Ann Arbor Pioneer, but said that it didn’t work out. 

“If there was a way to go out, that’s the way to do it,” he said.

Baseball was a big part of Motte’s athletic upbringing, just like hockey was a big part of Cronenworth’s. The two had played travel hockey together locally in Port Huron, and Cronenworth continued to play the sport through high school. By that time, baseball had started to look like his path forward, but he was still a star on the ice, winning the Macomb Area Conference Red MVP. 

“It was one of those things, I think Tyler wanted to play both in college, but it was a decision that we kind of had to make – I always wanted to play hockey,” Cronenworth said. “I think probably my sophomore year of high school, maybe freshman year when I got called up to the varsity in baseball, that was the turning point. But (hockey season) was huge. It just gave me a rest from baseball. When we were younger, yeah, you’re playing street hockey in the summer, but when it was baseball season, we played baseball, and when it was hockey season, we played hockey.”

Both went to University of Michigan to continue their academic and athletic careers and took winding professional paths before getting the opportunities they’re currently enjoying. 

Both already have been part of multiple pro organizations. Cronenworth was dealt to San Diego after beginning his career as a Tampa Bay Rays draft pick. Motte was a Chicago Blackhawks draft selection and after his first season was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who later sent him to Vancouver. 

But while they may both be out west now, their biggest fans remain in St. Clair – unless you count each other.

“I got to watch him play basically every single game besides,” Cronenworth said. “He had that game where he scored two short-handed goals, and I’m in my living room at 10:30 in the morning screaming at the TV. We have a group chat with the guys we played with in high school. We’re like one big family. We grew up together.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at paulcostanzo3@gmail.com with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Former high school teammates Jacob Cronenworth (left) and Tyler Motte meet up while Cronenworth plays minor league baseball for the Bowling Green Hot Rods in 2016. (Middle) Cronenworth shows his support for Motte during the latter’s time suiting up for USA Hockey. (Below) Cronenworth holds the trophy and Motte is bottom row, second from right, as St. Clair celebrates its 2011 Division 2 baseball championship. (Photos of Cronenworth and Motte together courtesy of Tyler Motte; head shots courtesy of MLB.com and NHL.com, respectively.)

Brother Rice's Rosa Relishing Final Run with High School Hockey

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

January 26, 2023

If the Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice hockey team ends up winning the Division 2 championship in March, it could be said that the journey to that title started in August with an offer he wasn't ready to accept.

Greater DetroitThat’s when senior Peter Rosa who was coming off an all-state season last year as a junior — went to Louisiana to train for a few days with the Shreveport Mudbugs, a team in the North American Hockey League. 

Rosa said at that point he was already wanting to come back to Brother Rice for his senior season, but given how he impressed the Mudbugs coaching staff during that camp, it didn’t stop Shreveport coaches from trying to change Rosa’s mind after they informed him he had a roster spot if he wanted it. 

“They wanted me there,” Rosa said. “They said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to come develop here?’"

But Rosa stuck with his original intentions, saying thanks, but no thanks, so he could play one final year of high school hockey. 

As a result, Rosa is already going down in the history books as one of the best to ever play for a storied Brother Rice program.

Following Tuesday’s win against Warren De La Salle Collegiate, Rosa has 22 goals and 25 assists in 17 games for the Warriors this winter.

He is No. 2 on the school’s all-time points list with 116, although he likely won’t be able to catch leader Mackenzie MacEachern, who had 154 points during his time at Brother Rice.

However, odds are good that Rosa will be able to overtake MacEachern’s record of 65 goals scored in a career, since Rosa currently is at 59. 

Rosa is a versatile 5-foot-10, 175-pound offensive stalwart who can play center and both wing positions. 

Rosa raises his stick in celebration after scoring Rice's first goal in the eventual 4-2 loss. When Brother Rice lost to Trenton in a Division 2 Semifinal last year, Brother Rice head coach Kenny Chaput said odds were good at the time that it would be the last time he would coach Rosa.

“I was fully planning on that being his final game with us,” he said.

Rosa went to Shreveport following the season to practice and meet the team in what was his first encounter with the Mudbugs before going back in August.

But throughout the summer, Chaput, through conversations with Peter’s dad and Brother Rice assistant coach Todd Rosa, had an inkling that Peter preferred to play at Brother Rice for his senior year.

Once the official word came from Peter at the beginning of the school year that he was coming back, there was a challenge for Chaput. 

Given Rosa was good enough to play at junior level, it was tempting for coaches to feel they didn’t have anything left to teach Rosa in high school. 

“I had to make sure I went above to push him so he doesn’t get stale with things,” Chaput said. “It’s still a challenge because he gets things done that a lot of other kids don’t. But there’s tweaks in his game that he still needs to do, so we’ll continue to push him the best we can. Obviously, we didn’t want him to have a year where he didn’t get pushed and he didn’t progress.” 

With Rosa in the fold, Brother Rice is an obvious contender to win its second Division 2 title in three years. 

“I don’t think there’s anything like playing for your school and for your classmates,” said Rosa, who said he’s not sure yet if he’ll play in Shreveport or for another junior team after he finishes high school. “Having the benefit of hanging out with kids in school all day, and then coming to practice with them and playing with them, I’ve built relationships with many kids on the team that I wouldn’t trade anything for. I’ve had a great experience.”

Even worse for opponents is that after the loss to Trenton in that Semifinal, Rosa is motivated for redemption. 

“That’ll leave a pretty bad taste in your mouth,” Rosa said. “I just felt like I had some unfinished business.”

If that business ends up being finished, opponents will sure wish those Shreveport coaches could’ve changed Rosa’s mind in August. 

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at keithdunlap78@gmail.com with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Brother Rice's Peter Rosa gains steam on a rush during last season's Division 2 Semifinal against Trenton at USA Hockey Arena. (Middle) Rosa raises his stick in celebration after scoring Rice's first goal in the eventual 4-2 loss.