STERLING HEIGHTS – Annis Joseph died last year at the age of 92, and the former baseball coach, husband, father and grandfather supplied his extended family stories to tell that will last a lifetime.
Ryan Joseph is one of his grandsons and forever in debt to the person who created such a love for sports, whether playing or coaching, for so many members of his family.
One such story touched Ryan at an early age and represents a chord that connects this family through more than 60 years of coaching.
Ryan Joseph, 29, is in his second season as the varsity baseball coach at Utica Ford. Back in the mid-to-late 1990s he watched East Detroit’s baseball team, coached by his father, Matt, play against Ferndale, coached by his grandfather.
“My dad ran a squeeze play to win the game,” Ryan said. “It was a play my grandfather used all the time, and my dad learned from that. The newspapers were there, taking pictures afterward of my dad and my grandfather together. That was the first memory I have of my grandfather.”
Annis Joseph coached for 53 years, and most of his time as a coach was spent on a baseball diamond in Ferndale. He and his wife, Josephine, raised seven children, four boys and three girls, and all of the boys played a variety of sports throughout high school. All also eventually became coaches.
Matt Joseph is the seventh child, and what his father started in the 1940s, coaching and working with the youth in the area, will continue for years to come.
Matt Joseph and his wife, Darlene, have three children, and all three are coaches. Matt is in his 32nd season. He’s currently the head coach of two varsity sports at Utica Ford, softball and girls basketball. He’s also a counselor at the school.
“Sports has always been a big part of my life,” Matt said. “I love it. I love coaching. I love working with young adults, and the camaraderie you build with coaches and referees. (Being a coach) has helped me in my life. You have to have patience (to coach). It’s becoming a family thing.”
His son is not only the baseball coach at Ford, but he just completed his first season assisting his father with the girls basketball team. Ryan started coaching in 2010 at Jeanette Junior High in Sterling Heights working with the eighth grade boys basketball team. He also coached freshmen baseball at Sterling Heights Stevenson for five seasons before going over to Ford. Ryan also coached football for four seasons including one at the freshmen level at Stevenson. This season he started coaching a 13-and-under summer league baseball team as well.
Matt’s eldest daughter, Emily, 27, just completed her fifth season as the girls junior varsity basketball coach at Macomb Dakota. Emily is also a mathematics teacher at the school.
The Josephs’ third child, Teresa, 25, just completed her third season as the girls varsity basketball coach at Grand River Prep in Kentwood near Grand Rapids. Teresa also teaches math at the school.
Matt, 54, began his career in education as a math teacher. He graduated from Madison Heights Bishop Foley in 1981, and he said there was a math teacher he had as a junior who sparked his interest in the subject.
His children followed his lead, all except his son who chose a slightly different path. Ryan is a French teacher.
One of Matt’s brothers, Mike, switched careers after a spell. He quit his job, went back to college and earned his teaching certificate. Mike teaches at Hartland and is the girls varsity golf coach there.
It’s in the blood.
“I knew in high school I wanted to be a teacher,” Matt Joseph said. “I love what I do. I wake up and it’s not a chore going to work. I knew I wasn’t going to make a lot of money. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
The other male offspring of Annis and Josephine are Dave, 64, and Ray, 63. Mike is the eldest son at age 69.
Dave and Ray spent a majority of their careers coaching girls basketball. Dave spent the last 12 seasons as the varsity coach at Bishop Foley before recently resigning. Ray was Dave’s junior varsity coach the past 21 seasons.
“My dad started it all,” Dave said. “He owned Annis Market on 9 Mile (Road) and Hilton in Ferndale. He coached federation ball, and each team had to have a sponsor. The market was ours for a number of years. Growing up we would go along with Mom and Dad to the ball field. My dad coached, and my mom would sell concessions. So we were in sports all of our lives. We all started at a very young age. My dad coached me until I was 18. It was fun. Those were great times.”
Dave Joseph said what he’ll miss most is watching the improvement of the players coinciding with the improvement of the teams. What happened in between was what adults would call the foolishness of youth, what Dave termed ‘giddiness’.
Matt has had the most success. He started coaching at the varsity level in 1990 at East Detroit as he ran both the baseball and boys basketball programs. From 1996-2000 he coached three varsity teams adding girls basketball to the list. After the 2000-01 school year, Matt left East Detroit and accepted a counseling position at Ford. He remained the baseball coach at East Detroit, and in 2004 he was hired as the girls varsity basketball coach at Ford.
It was during this time that Ford’s baseball coach Dan Barnabo switched over to coaching softball. It took Barnabo time to convince Matt to make the same switch.
“He convinced me to help him,” Matt said. “At first I said, ‘No, I’m a baseball guy.’ I finally did it. Then we switched again. (In 2011) I became the head coach and Dan’s my assistant. And he still is.”
As a school, Ford has never been to an MHSAA Softball Final, but Matt took his Falcons to the program’s first Semifinal in 2014 as Ford lost in Division 1 to Portage Central, 1-0.
Ford is 20-4 this season, ranked No. 6 in the state coaches poll, and could play No. 2 Macomb Dakota, last season’s Division 1 runner-up, in a District Final.
Dave Joseph’s teams didn’t make it as far as Matt’s in softball, but Dave’s 2013-14 Bishop Foley team did win the Detroit Catholic League C-D title.
And success is measured in many more ways than District or league titles. As a person, Matt Joseph is content. He’s lived a good and happy life and is proud of where he came from and the guidance he and his wife gave their three children.
“I just believed in what I was doing,” he said. “And my kids did all the things I did when I was growing up. They came with me to East Detroit as a water boy or water girl and a bat boy. It’s what we did as a family. And they all played at least two varsity sports.”
Evidently Annis Joseph sold more than fruits and vegetables at his market. He was able to convince many in his family that by participating in athletics, and becoming passionate about them, those experiences could lead one to riches not measured in dollars and cents, but where commitment and family are their own rewards.
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) One branch of the coaching Josephs surrounds grandfather Annis, clockwise from top left, Ryan, Matt, Emily and Teresa. (Middle) Annis, left, and Matt Joseph when Annis was coaching at Ferndale and Matt at East Detroit. (Below) Matt Joseph celebrates a basketball championship with daughter Teresa during her playing days. (Photos courtesy of the Joseph family).
Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.
They may just start looking for a Kingsley VIP lot at Ford Field. The Stags just captured the MHSAA Division 6 championship trophy with a 38-24 victory over Almont, their second Finals championship and first since 2005.
The road to the Finals started with Kingsley hosting two playoff games, allowing great use of the VIP Parking of Trina’s Touchdown Club. The lot is adjacent to the school’s Rodes Field and provided in loving memory of Katrina “Trina” Kay Schueller, who passed away Oct. 21, 2021, at Munson Medical Center.
Those playoff games filling Trina’s Touchdown Club’s parking lot featured wins over Mason County Central 61-12 and Manistee 37-18, and 51-27 over Gladstone in the Regional Final. Kingsley then traveled down the road and defeated Reed City 37-7 in the Semifinal.
There may not have been designated VIP parking in Cadillac and Ford Field for the Stags’ followers, but there were a lot of VIPs at both stadiums with Schueller on their minds. Pretty much everyone with an affiliation with the highly-successful program or familiarity with the community’s struggles have become VIPs to the Kingsley coaching staff and many others.
Most certainly among the VIPs are head coach Tim Wooer, assistant coach Conner Schueller, his brother Carter Schueller, and his father Mike Schueller.
Conner was set to play the biggest regular-season game of his career the day after his mom passed. It was the regular-season finale against rival Traverse City St. Francis.
Wooer vividly remembers the moments leading up to that matchup, noting how difficult it was for Conner. But his then-fullback and now-assistant coach demonstrated amazing strength and maturity he stills exhibits today.
“He’s in his senior football season, and his mom is in the hospital for four weeks — he’s balancing that playing football and going to school,” Wooer recalled. “And then she passes, and he has the strength to come back to school and deliver the news to our team.
“I am sobbing watching this kid, and I’m just amazed,” Wooer continued. “The next night is Parents Night, and he’s on the field with his dad and brother without his mom.”
Conner still played, making a 4th-down goal line tackle to prevent a St. Francis touchdown. The Gladiators won the game, but Conner won the day, conquering much just to dress for the game.
The Stags went on to playoff wins over Kingsford 28-10 and Clare 32-6. They bowed out with a 33-18 Regional loss to Frankenmuth.
Conner’s junior year of 2020 had been cut short as the Kingsley was forced to forfeit its District Final to Reed City because several players and coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Stags had Ford Field in their minds that season too after playoff wins over 38-13 Standish-Sterling 38-13 and Gladwin 63-16.
Conner, who celebrated his 20th birthday at Saturday’s Final, remembers his playing days and the challenges presented him.
“At the time it was ‘she’s not there,’ especially my senior year she wasn’t there to watch me and finish it out, but I know she’s watching above,” he said. “We were about to go play Reed City my junior year for Regionals, and everyone got sick and it ended our season unfortunately.”
Those challenges were on his mind at Ford Field, and running through his mind when he saw his brother and father in the stands. Carter, now a senior at Kingsley, had been unable to play football due to injuries.
“I thought about my brother – he unfortunately didn’t play this year due to his injuries, and I don’t really blame him for that,” Conner said. “I thought about him as well because it was just me and my dad and my brother now.
“It was very emotional,” Conner continued. “I got a glimpse of him in the strands.”
Carter also was filled with gratitude for the coaching staff for welcoming and mentoring him. He had become keenly aware of the amount of time coaches spend away from family at practices and going through film.
In addition to his family, Conner was thinking about many others in the Kingsley community – and other senior classes like his that didn’t get the chance to celebrate a championship.
He also was thinking about Justin Hansen, a 2003 graduate of Kingsley. Hansen was a captain on the 2002 conference championship team. He went on to become a special-operations Marine sergeant and was killed in action July 24, 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan. Hansen was on patrol as part of an operation in search of a high-value target when his team was hit with small arms fire.
On Saturday, Wooer was wearing a red T-shirt with the letters “USA” on the front and the name “Hansen” on the back. It also featured the number 54, Hansen’s in high school.
Wooer, who turned 54 in July, wore the shirt in Hansen’s memory knowing Hansen would be on the veteran coach’s mind and symbolizing Hansen’s presence with the team at Ford Field.
Wooer wants to make sure Hanson is never forgotten and reminds the soldier’s family the entire community remains behind them.
“I believe it is part of our job as a community to show our love to this family and help in any way possible to help them get through this process,” Wooers said. “After the funeral, we all went about life.
“We certainly still think about Justin and feel the pain,” he continued. “But nothing like a family does.”
Hansen’s tragic passing led to the creation of the annual Patriot Game in Traverse City in 2012 while Wooer was coaching Traverse City West. The game features crosstown rivals West and Traverse City Central every year and strives to honor veterans, first responders, active duty military, and area heroes who died while serving their country.
Saturday’s win over Almont left Wooer emotionally exhausted after all the preparations to do it right for the senior class, the school, the Kingsley community, the Schueller family and Hansen. Collectively, they’ve really become more like a family to the Stags coaching staff and many, many others.
“In terms of emotions, there is no doubt Justin was on my mind throughout the game,” Wooer said. “Trina and Conner have been – those are two huge pieces.
“And, a lot of my thoughts are with the seniors,” he continued. “You want to win the game, but also it is your last time with them.”
Wooer has learned a lot from his former players and coaches over the years. He’s become close friends with many of them, going back to his early days of coaching as a student-teacher at Elk Rapids. He also coached at Farewell and Traverse City West, the latter from 2008-2017 after a first tenure at Kingsley. He returned to Kingsley in 2018.
Schueller is among several former players and coaches who have been on Wooer’s coaching staffs over the years. Several continue today.
“I could give you lots of other stories about kids I have had,” Wooer said. “There comes this transition where they turn into such amazing men, you catch yourself every once in a while saying, ‘I want to be like him.’
“You get this huge smile on your face because you’re so proud of them, just like a mother or father would,” Wooer continued. “A coach always looks at his players like they’re part of his family.”
In addition to Conner, current assistants with long-term relationships with Wooer are Tom Kaleita, Kyle Smith, Ryan Zenner, Dan Goethals, Josh Merchant, Jordan Bradford, Steve Klinge, Connor Schueller, Mike Arlt, Larry Mikowski, Bobby Howell, Rob Whims and Jason Morrow.
This year’s seniors were Jon Pearson, Eli Graves, Skylar Workman, Gavyn Merchant, Max Goethals, Evan Trafford, Bode Bielas, Grant Kolbusz, James Person, Caleb Bott, Trenton Peacock, Noah Scribner and Gavin Dear. They and the coaching staff will be the center of attention as the community celebrates the football team at 7 p.m. this evening in the high school gymnasium.
The seniors probably won’t need VIP parking tonight. But if it would help, Conner would surely make arrangements to utilize Trina’s Touchdown Club. He’d have to add a shuttle though as Rodes Field is about a mile away from the school.
“It feels amazing — I don’t think it really hit any one yet, but I am sure it will,” Conner said. “After we won, it is truly something – it is something else I can’t explain.
“The seniors finally won it the way they were supposed to,” he continued. “It was a good class of seniors.”
Tom 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) Kingsley students support their classmates during Saturday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (2) Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back. (3) Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right. (4) Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. (Ford Field photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos; touchdown club photo courtesy of the Kingsley football program.)