Homer gets over elusive hump

Homer gets over elusive hump

Blissfield’s baseball facility is ridiculous; think Texas high-school football crazy.

That’s thanks mostly to a $375,000 donation in 1995 by O.W. Farver, owner of Blissfield Manufacturing, an automotive component supplier and the town’s largest employer. All that cash helped produce a field featuring a $17,000 irrigation system with a 50-head underground sprinkler system, sunken Major League-style dugouts, 250 stadium seats behind home plate, and a scoreboard bigger than some backstops.

But Blissfield is not just a baseball team, it’s also a grassroots program. Part of the massive donation from Farver went toward renovating Little League fields, including an exact replica of Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pa., where the Little League World Series is played every August.

Blissfield varsity baseball coach Larry Tuttle had been involved in countless big games and had a few butt-whippings of Homer on his resume. Perhaps that’s why the day before the 2004 quarterfinal contest Tuttle told the Battle Creek Enquirer that Blissfield had “faced about six pitchers as good as Josh Collmenter this season.” Tuttle went on to say, “They haven’t seen anyone as good as Ryan Terry. I think we have a kid [Terry] who’s every bit as good as [Collmenter], if not better.”

As Homer’s yellow school bus departed the school parking lot, bound 85 miles northeast for Howell High, Salow had something to show his star pitcher, Collmenter, who was seated near the back of the bus.

Trash-talking through the media is usually reserved for professional sports or possibly NCAA Division 1 basketball or football, but now it made its way to Division 3 high-school baseball in Michigan.

Salow sauntered toward the back of the bus and handed Collmenter that day’s Battle Creek paper, the one where Tuttle basically called Collmenter a dime-a-dozen pitcher. If any motivation had been lacking, and it hadn’t, now Homer and especially Collmenter were pumped. They couldn’t wait for the bus to roll into Howell. “I just remember we showed up and our side was packed [with fans],” Collmenter said. “And [Blissfield] had just one small section of bleachers filled.”

Generally, before a game, Salow let his starting pitcher and catcher work in the bullpen by themselves without being bothered. But on this day, Salow took a long walk out to see Collmenter and gauge how his 15-0 pitcher was feeling before the biggest game of both of their lives.

The moment Salow reached Collmenter and looked in his eyes, a sense of relief came over the coach.

Collmenter didn’t even have to say anything but simply seeing his determined gaze let Salow know his right-hander was going to be just fine. Still, Salow decided to lighten the mood as the first pitch approached. “Josh, you’ve had a great career and it’s great to have you on the mound today, and Coach Tuttle thinks you’re one of the six or seven best pitchers he’s seen this year,” Salow laughed.

A team.
Homer’s team.