Veteran Pellston baseball coach Bricker leaves for all the right reasons
Pellston's Randy Bricker Jr. went 273-219-1 in his 15-year career with the Hornets and guided his teams to five district, three regional and one Ski Valley Conference title. Bricker retired following the Hornets Division IV district tournament two weeks ago. (NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO / June 14, 2012)
The high school baseball program in the Village of Pellston is a case in point.
When the ball field at Pioneer Park needed some work — a lot of work, as it turned out — everybody, it seemed, pitched in. In building the program, a lot of people pitched in too.
Yeah, it takes a village.
It also takes a Randy Bricker Jr.
Bricker, who led the Hornet baseball program for the past 15 years, stepped down from his post after Pellston fell to Rudyard two weeks ago in a Division IV district championship game.
For one of the few times in memory, the amiable, chatty and self-deprecating Pellston native couldn’t find the words.
“It was very emotional for me in Rudyard when we lost,” said Bricker, 39. “I hadn’t told the players and I couldn’t even speak. We let the players know at the end of the district just so they didn’t hear it somewhere else.”
Legendary Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda used to say he bled Dodger blue. Bricker was Hornet brown-and-gold to his heart and soul.
He graduated from the school in 1991 after earning a combined five varsity letters in basketball and baseball. He really never left the school, taking a job coaching middle school basketball almost immediately after graduation.
“I was hanging around and that’s what got me in the (coaching) door,” said Bricker, who works in ground service for his father’s company, Airport Rescue Fire Fighters.
Soon, Bricker was the school’s junior varsity baseball coach and assistant to the late Jerry Charboneau, who at the time was the varsity baseball coach.
When Charboneau left to take over at Cheboygan, then-Pellston athletic director Tom Litzner didn’t have to look far for his replacement.
“Hell, for all I know, nobody else applied,” Bricker quipped. “I really enjoyed working for (Litzner) and for him giving me the opportunity to take the program over. He was a huge asset to Pellston, and to me as a coach.”
Same could be said about Bricker. Good high school programs take the likeness of their leader. The Hornets were cast in Bricker’s shadow: An emphasis on pitching, fundamentals and defense, traits that made the Hornets a tough out at every turn.
“We’ve always tried to instill in the kids to give us 100 percent and play hard and have Pellston pride,” Bricker said. “You’re not going to get any better unless you put in the hard work, put in the extra time. You can’t win unless you play defense. You can’t give up 10, 15 runs a game and expect to win.
“We wanted the kids to have fun, but in the next breath, you’ve got to work hard and play the game right.”
They didn’t win ’em all — who does? — but they had more than their fair share of success under Bricker.
He compiled a 273-219-1 record and, after going 4-21 in his first year followed by a 10-23 finish and a 14-16 slate, the Hornets compiled winning records in 11 of Bricker’s final 12 years.