Weatherlys Cherishing Final Run Together

June 2, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

HOWELL – It’s not hard to pick out the Weatherly boys on a baseball field. Sam, the senior, is 6-foot-3. Ty, a junior, is an inch taller.

It’s a little tougher to realize Howell co-coach Mike Weatherly is their dad. He's shading just north of 6 foot.

But watch closely, and you’ll figure it out. Jason Ladd, the other half of the Highlanders’ varsity coaching pair, has seen it plenty of times.

“They’ve both got some of their dad’s athleticism for sure, seeing how he played four years at Central Michigan University and they won four MAC championships while he was there,” Ladd said. “He was a captain, and they get a lot of leadership quality from their dad.

“But it’s unique in the fact that they’re able to be so respectful. Sometimes when you get parents who are coaches, (the kids) aren’t respectful. But they’re both totally respectful to their dad, appreciative of what he does, and you can tell there’s a lot of love beyond being the son of the coach.”

It’s a lot of fun at the Weatherly house these days. But really, it’s been that kind of spring as Mike gets one final chance to coach both of his youngest sons on a team that could do some damage when Howell begins Division 1 District play today at Dexter.

Sam Weatherly is arguably the top high school baseball player in Michigan this season. A lefty, he hits 92 mph on the mound, and he’s signed to continue his career at Clemson University – which currently is playing in the NCAA Regionals.

Ty is finishing his first year of varsity ball, but coming on strong. A righty, he throws in the mid 80s and no-hit reigning Division 2 runner-up Linden a week ago.

They’re the youngest two of four athletic children Mike and Marybeth (Chappelle) Weatherly have raised. Bobby, 25, played baseball at Howell and Muskegon Community College, while Tess is three years older than Sam and plays basketball at Northern Michigan University.

It’s a question Mike can’t help but get asked – how do you go about raising such a talented bunch? There are some pointers to be offered there. But right now, the focus is just on enjoying every moment they can share.

Following Mom and Dad's lead

Mike Weatherly was a shortstop at Central Michigan University – and a really good one, in fact.

So it makes sense that when he describes how his wife-to-someday-be flipped through the air in front of him back then, he calls it an “Ozzie Smith” in reference to the acrobatic Hall of Fame shortstop of St. Louis Cardinals lore.

He also knew at that moment that she was the one – or at least one he was interested in knowing better. 

According to a Detroit Free Press report when she was a track star at Sterling Heights Stevenson, Marybeth had grown up in gymnastics and also was a cheerleader. She got into track later, but some of her school records still stand, Mike said. And because of her genes, her boys stand tall – the height is from her side of the family, as is their speed and a dose of their toughness.

“My mom had three older brothers. She’s been raised with wolves, and with us, she treats us the same way,” Sam said. “Crybabies never really happened in our house. You have to have a hard nose in this family."

All four clearly have used those physical gifts to their advantage – Sam and Ty most recently in helping Howell to a 26-9-1 record.

Sam is hitting .500 with 15 doubles, three home runs and 29 RBI, and he’s stolen 16 bases. He’s also 5-1 on the mound with a 0.73 ERA and 61 strikeouts in just more than 38 innings pitched. He’s given up 19 hits and four runs total this spring.

Ty – who grew four inches just over the last year – is finishing up his first varsity season strongly. He has thrown 35 innings and is 5-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 30 strikeouts.

When Sam was 6, he asked his dad about college baseball. Ever since, Sam wanted to be a baseball player. He chose jersey number 6 because it was Mike’s; he’s worn it since.

Sam and Ty always were together as the two youngest kids, and played on the same teams for about five years with Mike as their coach.

“They were fortunate to be born with some coordination, and worked at it. And they had good youth experiences, playing Little League … we let them develop at their own pace, and I think that’s the key,” Mike said.

“There was no extra coaching going on. If you look at their innings pitched, they were really green; they didn’t throw a lot. Sam played freshman baseball (instead of varsity). I think this generation of people push too hard too early. If we did one thing right, that’s it, that’s really it. You have to go out and have fun and enjoy it. Because it can get ugly if you don’t.”

Sharing the fire 

Ladd spun a bit of a phrase in describing Sam and Ty. He said they are nothing alike, but just like their dad. And, strange as that might sound, he’s right.

Ty might be the jokester, but Sam is the talker of the two, even if he’s a little more serious. Mike, meanwhile, recalled how his CMU teams were referred to as the “mouths of the Midwest,” but not him – he kept quiet and played, and Ty is much the same.  

And yet, competitive fire, however the sons show it, reminds Ladd of their dad.

Ty indeed is more like Mike in that he keeps it under the surface. That’s not to mistake either as calm; it’s just the intensity doesn’t necessarily come with a voice.

Sam’s intensity, on the other hand, “is way out there.” Ty said this perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek – but he also knows that after a bad loss, his brother holes up in his room until morning.

“He gets really ticked off,” Ty said. “He hates it. He wants to win at everything.”

And Ty admires his brother’s work ethic in trying to attain that goal. So much so, he’d love to see his brother go out in a couple weeks as the last one standing on the mound at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium, putting the finishing touches on a championship.

“I know this season has meant a lot to him, and he really, really wants that state championship,” Ty Weatherly said. “I know if he went out there and got that W for us, it would be really special to him.”

Here and now

It would be easy for Sam to look ahead. He wouldn’t have to look far.

Whenever Howell’s season does end over the next three weekends, he’ll officially become a member of the Clemson baseball program.

In a little more than a week, on June 12, the Major League Baseball draft will begin. He has a legitimate shot of being selected the second day, sometime during rounds 3-10.

But that’s not where his head, or rather feet, are today – or will be until the Highlanders have done everything possible to win their first MHSAA baseball championship.

And that’s not just saying the right thing because Dad is the coach. It’s especially apparent in his relationship with Ty – with all of this going on in Sam’s life, he’s still watching his brother’s moves on the diamond, ready with a few words of wisdom when they can help. Sam has gotten a lot of coaching from great sources the last few years, and through him Ty has been a recipient as well.

“I really care. I care about the team first, and personal accolades follow that,” Sam said. “You should be where your feet are, and my feet right now are in high school with my high school team, and that’s my first priority.”

But …

“All of it kinda hits me off the field,” he added. “I use baseball and friends to get away from it. It’s fun, but I’m very anxious at the same time.”

Howell has eluded a state ranking despite recent wins over No. 5 Birmingham Brother Rice, No. 9 Sterling Heights Stevenson and ranked Division 2 teams Linden and Fowlerville.

With No. 10 Brighton being upset by Ann Arbor Skyline in a Pre-District game Tuesday, today’s possibilities got a lot more interesting. Not that anyone is looking ahead or expecting to win. But simply forecasting from the outside, there are opportunities to keep this thing together a little while longer – especially with a ranked rival no longer in the field.

Mike knows the way. He coached Hartland to the MHSAA Semifinals in 2000, and with Ladd led Howell to the final weekend in 2012 and 2013. Those runs had to be a little bit different, of course; now he's writing his sons into the lineup at this most exciting time of the season. 

“We’re trying to enjoy every moment and slow it down because it’s going to be gone before we know it,” Mike Weatherly said. “It’s exciting, but I’ll admit it’s a little stressful too.

“There’s a lot riding on stuff, but at the end of the day things will work out the way they work out. We’ll keep plugging away. All we’re trying to do is win a championship, try to win their last game, and that’s been our focus.”

Geoff Kimmerly joined the MHSAA as its Media & Content Coordinator in Sept. 2011 after 12 years as Prep Sports Editor of the Lansing State Journal. He has served as Editor of Second Half since its creation in Jan. 2012. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Ionia, Clinton, Shiawassee, Gratiot, Isabella, Clare and Montcalm counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Sam Weatherly, middle, stands with parents Mike (also his coach at Howell) and Marybeth. (Middle) Ty Weatherly shares a fist bump with his dad after reaching base. (Below) Sam Weatherly begins to unwind toward the plate during a game this season. (Photos by Andrea Leon.)

Algonac Diamond Teams Hope Matching Successes Lead to East Lansing

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 24, 2023

Kenna Bommarito remembers how many people were in East Lansing a year ago to support her and her Algonac softball teammates at the Division 3 Semifinals.

Bay & ThumbSo, she has an idea of how many people from the town would show up if both the softball and baseball teams were there this time around.

“I think everyone would be,” the junior pitcher said.

There’s a decent possibility that Bommarito’s theory could be tested. The Muskrats softball team is ranked No. 2 in Division 3, and Tuesday night clinched the first Blue Water Area Conference title in program history.

That came one night after the baseball team – ranked No. 1 in Division 3 – also won its first BWAC title. The BWAC was created in 2002, and Algonac was an original member.

“It’s amazing – this town loves it,” said senior baseball player Tyler Schultz. “We’ve got a small community, and everybody is tagging along. I remember last year, a couple of our final postseason games, that was the most people I’ve ever seen at a game. All of the sports here are starting to build up. We have athletes all around the school. I think as time goes on, I think each sport will get better and better.”

Bommarito’s imagined scenario nearly played out a year ago, as both teams made their deepest postseason run.

While the softball team was making its historic run to the Semifinal, the baseball team was making one of its own, advancing to the Quarterfinal for the first time in program history.

Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in.The baseball team’s movement toward this started with the 2017 and 2018 seasons, when the Muskrats won back-to-back District titles.

“We had a couple DI (college) players, and when you have those players come through, it generates excitement through the youth,” said Algonac baseball coach Scott Thaler, who took over the program in 2017. “It’s been a trickle-down effect from that initial first two years. That really set the bar. We’ve had some really good baseball players come through, and I have a great staff.”

Thaler had stressed back then that he wanted to build a program at Algonac and not have it be a flash in the pan. That certainly looks like it’s happening, and not just because his Muskrats are winning and sitting atop the state rankings.

Algonac – which has fewer than 500 students in the entire school – has junior varsity and freshman baseball teams. Thaler also said there are 25 eighth graders coming into the program next year.

“I think that when I was smaller in little league, we didn’t really have that where we went out on the field with the varsity players,” said junior pitcher Josh Kasner. “Now, that’s gotten a lot better. A lot of the smaller kids we see around town, they know who we are and about (the program).”

Of course, talent wasn’t enough to get there. Thaler needed to instill belief in his team in order to help the younger generation see what was possible.

“I was a (football assistant) coach under Scott Barnhart, and one of the things we preached to the kids back then is ‘To believe in the things you haven’t seen before,’” Thaler said. “That’s the mantra we brought to them last year, ‘Why not us?’ Just because it hasn’t happened before here doesn’t mean you can’t believe in that. We had to get them to believe.”

The Quarterfinal run provided proof beyond the belief for the Muskrats, and then the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association added to it all, naming Algonac the preseason No. 1 team in Division 3.

Luckily for Thaler, his team took it in stride.

The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield.“I mean, it was a great feeling, but part of me had some doubts,” Schultz said “We’ve got some younger kids on the team, and I thought that maybe they might look at that and might get complacent, but me and some of the other seniors have done a good job of keeping all of these guys looking forward. We’ve still got one goal, and that’s to finish (with a Finals title).”

While the softball team didn’t enter the season with a No. 1 ranking, the expectations were certainly there, as was a new target on its back.

But bigger than both was motivation following a walk-off loss to Millington in the Semifinal.

“I think it just shows us that in those big games with those types of teams, you can never say never,” said first-year softball coach Natalie Heim, who was an assistant on last year’s team. “You really have to bear down. That Millington team that beat us, they fought hard. But I definitely think it fuels us more to get back.”

The softball program’s rise may have seemed more sudden to those on the outside, but senior Ella Stephenson said it had been bubbling for a while.

“My sophomore year, we had some talent for sure,” she said. “We had a really good season, but not as good as junior and senior year. The class above me was really talented. But they kind of turned the program around in my eighth-grade year, and it kind of kept building from there.”

During Stephenson’s sophomore season, the Muskrats lost a tough District game against Richmond, which went on to win the Division 3 Finals title. Not only are the Blue Devils a common early postseason opponent for the Muskrats, they’re also a conference rival. As is Almont. And Croswell-Lexington. And … It’s a brutal conference.

The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo.So, much like the baseball team, even during the softball team’s historic 2022 season, winning the conference this spring proved to be tougher than making a deep postseason run.

That made Tuesday night’s sweep of North Branch to clinch the BWAC that much sweeter.

“Honestly, it’s a rush of just happiness,” Bommarito said. “We’re all so excited and just can’t believe we did it. We just played game-by-game today, and really took it one pitch, one out at a time.”

Not only has the BWAC prepared the Muskrats for the possibility of another deep postseason run, it helped keep them focused throughout the season.

“I think a lot of teams don’t have that luxury of facing the best competition during the season,” Heim said. “I think it keeps (the Muskrats) not looking too far ahead. We try to have that approach of one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. It helps with having goals that are a little tougher to achieve. Winning our league, it’s tough. It’s not an easy feat. Especially after last year’s success, it would have been easy to look ahead.”

Now, with league titles secured, both teams can focus on their ultimate goals and the postseason that is directly in front of them.

All with the hope that their similarities – on top of the league titles, both teams are 29-2 as of Wednesday, and both have a University of Michigan-bound player (Kasner and Stephenson) – continue through the third weekend of June with matching trips to East Lansing.

“That’d be unreal. That would be so cool,” Stephenson said. “We all have really good friendships on the baseball and softball teams. Our records are identical. We both won our conference. It’s just really cool. I’m really happy for their success, and ours, too.”

Paul CostanzoPaul 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 [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Algonac pitcher Kenna Bommarito makes her move toward the plate during last season’s Division 3 Semifinal against Millington. (2) Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in. (3) The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield. (4) The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo. (Baseball photos and softball team photo courtesy of the Algonac athletic department.)