Still 'Loose' Swan Valley Loaded Again As Well

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

April 3, 2019

Mitch Jebb and his teammates on the Saginaw Swan Valley baseball team had plenty of fun a year ago as they made their run to the MHSAA Division 2 Final. 

The young Vikings surprised plenty of people with their runner-up finish, and a crucial part of that was how loose the team played. Even with a larger target now on their back, don’t expect them to tighten up. 

“If you come to one of our games, we’re always loose,” said Jebb, a junior shortstop who earned all-state first-team honors as a sophomore. “We’re just out there having fun, and why would you play baseball if you’re not having fun? That’s how we look at things – play your game, but have fun doing it. This year, we’re probably more loose than we were last year.” 

Swan Valley is still plenty young, with a roster comprised mostly of juniors and sophomores, but another deep postseason run wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The Vikings were ranked No. 6 in Division 2 in the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association preseason rankings, and they opened the season Tuesday with a pair of mercy-rule victories (13-0 and 11-0, both in five innings) at Chesaning.  

“I think we surprised quite a few people because we were so young and they had never heard of us before,” Swan Valley coach Craig Leddy said. “They were just playing and winning, and they were loose. That’s not going to happen this year. People have us on the radar.” 

The runner-up finish is likely the biggest reason the Vikings are on the radar, but it also doesn’t hurt to have three players on the roster who have committed to Big Ten baseball programs – none of whom are seniors. 

Jebb and classmate Brian Ross, a 6-foot-8 pitcher, have committed to Michigan State, while sophomore Avery Goldensoph, a 6-foot-2 pitcher, is committed to Michigan. Goldensoph, a first-team all-state selection as a freshman, opened the season by throwing a no-hitter against Chesaning. 

“I knew the group coming, and we have some more kids coming next year as sophomores, so I’m excited about what we have,” said Leddy, who was a longtime assistant before taking over the Swan Valley program a year ago. “This is a special group that’s played a lot of travel ball, and that’s huge.” 

There’s plenty of quality depth to go along with those stars, both in the lineup and the pitching rotation. Junior infielder Victor Mancini had 46 RBI through the team’s first 42 games a year ago, while junior catcher Easton Goldensoph had nine doubles and 26 RBI. Senior pitcher Conner Sika was the team leader in earned-run average, coming in at 0.51 while striking out 53 and allowing 26 hits and nine walks in 54 2/3 innings. He was superb on opening night, allowing just one hit in his shutout victory against Chesaning. 

“I think we can do it this year,” Avery Goldensoph said of making another deep run. “We’ve got me, Brian and Conner Sika who pitched (in the opening series), he’s really good. Our lineup put up 13 runs and 11 runs, that’s a great start.” 

With a tough Tri-Valley Conference Central schedule ahead, the games figure to get more difficult. But the Vikings view that challenge as a good way to prepare for the postseason, and invite the daily pressure playing in that league brings. 

Because even as they try to avoid it, the pressure of greater expectations is a reality they have to face. 

“I think we have a really good team, in my opinion,” Ross said. “Last year we were kind of going after everybody, and now we’re being looked at like they want us. So I would say it’s a little more pressure, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.” 

The best way to handle any pressure that may seep in? By going back to what worked so well a year ago – staying loose. That starts with the coaching staff. 

“We’re a little more relaxed; we’re not screaming and hollering,” Leddy said about his staff, which includes assistants Mark Jebb and David Finzel, as well as pitching coaches Chris and Nick Sarmiento. “I remember what it was like when I was a young kid; the last thing you wanted was a coach kicking you in the (behind) all the time. You want someone encouraging you to be a better person and a better ballplayer. I’m blessed to have some great coaches on staff that know a lot about baseball and care about the kids.” 

The attitude of the coaches has certainly gotten through to the players. 

“What happens, happens, right?” Mitch Jebb said. “If we win, we win. The goal is to win, but it’s not like Coach is saying, ‘You better win a state championship.’ We’re all playing the game we love, and it’s fun. It’s fun playing. If we can win, we want to win – you always want to win. But the overall picture is to go out there and play your game and have fun.” 

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 with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Swan Valley’s Victor Mancini drives a pitch during last season’s Division 2 championship game against Stevensville Lakeshore. (Middle) Shortstop Mitch Jebb fires a throw to first.

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

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.