Western's White Enjoys 'Special' Career

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

May 4, 2016

WALLED LAKE – Seeking a higher level of performance, many high school athletes have channeled their energy to one sport.

Many refer to this concentration as specialization – and Cody White, for one, isn’t buying it.

White, a junior at Walled Lake Western, is a three-sport athlete and he loves every minute of it. He plays basketball during the winter, baseball in the spring and football in the fall. During the summer he competes in AAU basketball, travel baseball, 7-on-7 football games with his Western teammates, and he participates in a few summer football camps.

White has played these same sports all throughout high school. His freshman year he competed in track and field, along with baseball. White hasn’t ruled out returning to track and field, in addition to baseball, as a senior – but this season he’s sticking with just baseball.

It’s a hectic schedule but, again, White wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I couldn’t see myself not competing in those sports,” he said. “I love them so much. I want to finish my senior year playing all three.”

White estimates that he’ll have two days off, away from sports, in June. In July he’ll take a week off, between his summer baseball team schedule ending and the start of football practice.

There’s no question White is driven, but it’s more than that. In some high schools, and with some coaches, playing multiple sports can be a challenge. There are some coaches who would prefer the students to play one sport and only one sport.

According to Western football coach Mike Zdebski, that isn’t the case at his school.

“We encourage them to play more than one sport,” Zdebski said. “For one, we want them to get their money’s worth. We have a pay-to-play policy of $425. You play one sport and it costs $425. You play three sports and it costs the same. And, two, playing other sports helps them develop other skills. In basketball you create space. In baseball you chase fly balls, and that helps with depth perception. Besides you get to work with other coaches and other teams.

“We’re lifting weights during the summer. If a kid is playing summer baseball or AAU basketball, if they have time they can come by and lift weights. And what we always tell them, if you’re tired let us know. You can take a break.”

Zdebski – whose team finished 12-1 last fall – was quick to point out some excellent athletes in the past, like former Kansas City Royals outfielder/Oakland Raiders running back Bo Jackson, who were multiple-sport athletes. And, more recently, there’s Luke Glendenning of the Detroit Red Wings. Glendenning was an all-state running back at East Grand Rapids.

When his high school career is done, White will play football in college. Two months ago he committed to sign with Michigan State this winter. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, White played receiver, defensive back and also returned kicks last fall. He played a big role in Western’s run to the Division 2 Semifinals.

During baseball season, White pitches and plays middle infield and right field. He plays the wing and shooting guard in basketball.

His interest in playing a variety of sports came at an early age and, as is the case with most children, a family member was the one who introduced White to athletics. Former NFL player and Detroit Lions executive Sheldon White is his father, but the first sport White played, at age 3, was baseball. Two years later he began playing football and basketball.

Sheldon White also played three sports at his high school in Dayton, Ohio, (Meadowdale High) and helps his son manage his busy schedule, particularly during the offseason.

“Growing up was a little different (for me) than the usual kid,” Cody White said. “Going to Lions games and just being around football all the time. I think I love the game more because I was around it so much.

“But I think playing three sports helped me, too. The twisting of your hips in baseball, when you swing the bat, you’re using different muscles. And all the jumping you do in basketball. You have to move in tight spaces.

“With football, you’re with the football guys. By doing all three you meet different people.”

Playing multiple sports has definitely been the right road for White to follow. And his busy schedule hasn’t hindered his work in the classroom.

White has a 3.54 grade-point average pending his grades for this semester.

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) Cody White (right) runs away from a Midland Dow defender during their Regional Final this fall. (Middle) White works for a shot against Milford. (Photos by Teresa Presty.)

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.)