OKEMOS - The Okemos Varsity Baseball team is working on one thing this season: “Team camaraderie definitely, we gotta get the kids to be closer, closer niched so they continue to push each other because that’s what we’re going to need this season,” says Assistant Coach Ben Magsig.
Ben’s father, the Head Coach of the team now for almost 24 seasons can’t agree more. “I think the camaraderie I mean you can hear it in the background, they get along pretty good. I don’t know how talented we are, we got some talent but I think the camaraderie is going to get us through some games,” says Phil Magsig.
Some may call this a rebuilding season for the team but they are taking full advantage of all the possibilities that come with it. “We’ve grown a lot, this year we’ve got a lot of young guys I’m really excited to see what they can do, they have to step up to fill all of the spots we have missing from last year,” says Senior Pitcher/ Catcher Trevor Perry.
Although it is still early in the season the veterans along with the newcomers are showing improvements already. “I see a lot of potential, we were a senior heavy last year we had about eight starting seniors out of our nine last year that we graduated. We’re kinda all over the board and um there’s not really one spot that’s guaranteed for anyone at all this year so everybody is going to have to earn it,” says Ben.
Being a returning Senior or an upperclassman does not guarantee you a starting spot this season. “We’re coming out here competing every day for a starting job,” says Perry. Every practice the coaches will be watching to see who is working hard in each position. Ben says so far there is only one Sophomore who will be a starter, the centerfieldman.
With this in mind the players have shifted their focus from not only being the best team they can be against opponents but now are working hard to make themselves better players as well. “We’re not worried about which team we’re playing we’re worried about ourselves, us getting better everyday, because if we focus on ourselves and get better everyday I don’t think they’re a lot of teams out there that could beat us,” says Senior Catcher Andrew Graham.
The expectations from the Seniors are nothing but high this season from the coaching staff. “Last year we graduated like 10 Seniors, so we’re kind of young and I think we have a couple Seniors where if we get leadership out of them and some younger kids just keep their mouths closed and you know all eyes and ears that’ll be big,” says Phil.
Graham says “The Senior class, we’ve got a tight knit group we’ve been together for a long time, and all the way through high school so it’s been a long ride but a fun one.” He says they will work together to be leaders for the underclassman.
Senioritis is one goal Phil hopes to prevent this Spring. “I want us just to continue to grow throughout the whole season, not get halfway through and it’s really tough on Seniors in the Spring Sports because they start thinking about graduation, prom, ‘where am I going to college,’ and if they’re not involved as a starting position especially or even if they are sometimes they’re thinking outside the baseball field or the diamond, so if I keep them involved it’ll be great,” says Phil.
The Spring weather has made the anticipation of baseball season a little prolonged with many practices being moved inside due to muddy fields, rain and snow. Graham says he’s looking forward to getting second chances this season, “Definitely getting out on the field against some teams that we lost to last year.”
Phil has some keys to success for his team this season and they all don’t have to do with the physicalities on the field. “I think they’re working really hard right now, we have to stay in shape. I think having a positive attitude that’s going to be huge and baseball is a funny game you know, being successful 3 out of 10 times is a good thing, hard to take a little bit sometimes, but yeah I think we’ve got a good crew. I think we’ll be very competitive with all of the games that we play and that’s all we can ask for right now.”
Competitiveness is even more of a factor when you have a team that excels on both sides of the field. “We’re a versatile team where if we need to win a game 2-1, play a lot of good defense, have good pitching, we have the pitching we have the defense to do that,” says Graham. The outcomes from last season are the engine that’s driving the team this year. “Last year we didn’t make the Diamond Classic so this year it’s a big goal of ours to make the Diamond Classic not just make the Diamond Classic but also make a run in the Diamond and get to Cooley Law School Stadium,” says Graham.
Another factor helping the team to reach their post-season goals is the addition of a new strength and conditioning coach, who shares the last name of the rest of the coaching staff, and has experience at both the high school and collegiate level. “It’s a program kind of developed from CrossFit and I try to implement a lot of body workouts with the team where they don’t have to use much weight but they are using good core and strength movements through just their body. I see definitely that they are improving, their times are getting better, they are doing more reps, at first they were really winded kinda with the body movements but it’s good for their conditioning as well,” says Brittany Magsig, the strength and training coach and wife of Ben Magsig.
Brittany is the first female to work on the coaching staff in Phil’s 25-year coaching tenure at Okemos High School. “Being a female I think sometimes the boys work that much harder because she’s pretty tough, I mean she works really hard at what she does working out and she knows how to do everything, she’s teaching them how to do it correctly and I think they have to work that much harder because sometimes they don’t want to get beat by a girl so it drives out the inner-male personality,” says Phil.
What she brings to the team is no secret, you can ask anyone of the players or coaches and they can attest her presence as being extremely beneficial for the team. “Brittany's been a good asset to the program, she's really pushing these kids hard and it’s good to get a female perspective into things,” says Ben.
A female perspective definitely changes up the dynamic around a predominantly male team but being a female doesn’t take away from the fact that she is versatile in helping the team says Graham, “I don’t know about girl’s perspective I think Brittany's tougher than anybody on the team. ‘I mean sometimes guys get caught in the whole, I’m trying to win a job I’m trying to be better than the guy next to me’ thing whereas Brittany she wants us to obviously push ourselves to be better but bring other people with us.”
Working at the high school level Brittany uses training to help build qualities in the team that they will use on and off the field. “High school you just try to teach them leadership and when it gets tiring how they keep putting forth the effort rather if they feel like they can’t get all the reps that I’m asking for, um teaching them the leadership and effort I think is the biggest thing here. They need to be taught some things in regards to just persistent, perseverance, consistency,” says Brittany.
These values are exhibited by the coaching staff as well. With Phil being the father of Ben and the father-in-law of Brittany, the three of them work together to encourage each other's respective areas and help make the team better as a whole. “Ben’s a great hitting coach I mean he might be the best in the area as far as hitting coaches go and he gets along great with the kids and Brittany just loves being around us too, she does a nice job with the boys, so it works out really well, we are very fortunate,” says Phil.
The entire team sees how fortunate to have the coaching staff that they do as well. “To see them be able to work together so well and to push each other to push us it really makes you realize anything they’re asking us to do we can do and they’re just trying to make us the best team possible,” says Graham.
With most teams being like a family, Okemos baseball is actually a family, the team included. “They’re a unit and we’re trying to be like a unit so seeing them and having them work with us all together really helps us because they’re just one big family, we’re just one big family.”
One big family they stay for many years to come with no plans of changing how things are run around the program.“I think my dads more of a blue collar workhorse and I bring a lot of analytics I feel like to the game and once we clash and come up with our own ideas and put them together I think we’ll write a pretty good story,” says Ben.
The Magsig’s story does not end here, a new addition of another assistant coach coming in four weeks and guess who it will be? Phil’s youngest son who is currently playing baseball for Saginaw Valley University. “It’ll (the coaching staff) be stacked with Magsigs that’s for sure,” says Phil.