Monthly Archives: April 2015

Schoolcraft Little League Opens on April 25

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Turnout was big for the 2014 opening day at Swan Park for Schoolcraft Little League.

By Sue Moore

Opening ceremonies for the expanded Schoolcraft Little League facilities at Swan Park will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 25 according to Troy Faulk, Little League director.

There will be two new softball fields available for play besides the three already in existence. The complex at Swan Park, next door to the Schoolcraft Township Hall on 18th Street, has been built with a lot of volunteer labor, contributions from the community and the township over the last few years. This latest expansion is costing about $40,000 according to Faulk. It would be even higher were it not for all the free labor and use of equipment.

Approximately 275 Schoolcraft area children will have the opportunity to play on diamonds that are in pristine shape, Faulk said. Adult coaches total 75 and umpires are drawn from the ranks of volunteers including parents and siblings.

Another development is the formation of two girls softball teams of 13 and 14-year olds from Mendon, Schoolcraft and Vicksburg areas. They call themselves MSV for short but are still considered a part of the Schoolcraft Little League operation.

For many years the contests took place on the diamonds in Schoolcraft owned by the school district. Now 95 percent of the games are played at Swan Park, Faulk said.

Get in the Game as an Umpire

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Vicksburg Little League teams turned out in force for the 2014 opening day parade.

Vicksburg Little League is seeking umpires to officiate for baseball and softball. Vicksburg has maintained an all volunteer staff of officials since its inception in 1970. The vast majority of those former “Blue” members of the community have moved on.

This year there are nearly 500 participants comprising 40 teams in Vicksburg Little League. Opening day is April 25th. While all of those participants require proper instruction by their managers and coaches on the field of play, there remains a need for individuals with a good rules understanding to administer game rules and establish the conduct of play during those games.

All with a good understanding of the game are encouraged to be part of this experience for kids by contributing an evening or two for the benefit of these young boys and girls as an umpire. A free rules clinic is being offered on April 19th at Main Street Pub from 3 to 5 pm. The clinic is designed to provide an enhanced understanding of game rules and umpire protocol.

Umpire equipment is provided before each game by Vicksburg Little League.

It is by far the greatest seat in the house. And the game, umpires get a free soda and a hot dog.   Contact Joe Pawlak of Vicksburg Little League@ 269-327-9707 for more information.

The Ed Knapp Story of Successful Coaching

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Softball player Shaidan Knapp poses with her much admired grandfather and coach, Ed Knapp.

By Sue Moore

Ed Knapp’s fifty years of coaching sports in Vicksburg High School is a milestone that needs recognition, according to Mike Roy, Vicksburg’s athletic director. Knapp might disagree: He figures he’s had all the accolades anyone could ask for when his former athletes call him, text him and seek him out whenever they need his words of wisdom.

“That’s what makes it all worthwhile,” says Coach Knapp. “I learned that high school kids participate in sports because they want to have fun. I learned that early. If you have a positive way of talking with kids, it works. To see them develop socially, mentally, and physically is a real joy.”

The joy, encouragement and skills he gave his athletes translated into huge winning records for Vicksburg’s baseball, cross country, football and wrestling teams; he coached all of these sports at one time or another from 1964 through the current spring season. And he’s not stopping. Although retired from teaching, this is his second year as the assistant coach for softball. He is still having fun, especially since his granddaughter, Shaidan Knapp, is a star at shortstop on a team that will contend for conference champion honors again this year.

He coached baseball for 32 years and the field the boys play on for home games is named after Knapp. His players produced ten conference championships, three district championships, and a total of 393 wins and 205 losses from 1964 to 1998.

He coached wrestling for 27 years, racking up huge wins for a 360-98-2 record from 1971 to 1998. In that time his teams won 15 conference championships and five district championships; he received four regional coach of the year awards. He was inducted into the Vicksburg athletic Hall of Fame years ago.

“Coach Knapp taught determination, perseverance, self-respect, and the value of hard work in order to succeed in wrestling,” says Mike Frederick, now owner of Frederick Construction in Vicksburg. “Besides that, we were the best conditioned team in the conference. After football, you came into wrestling thinking you were in good shape. But the first two weeks of Knapp’s conditioning regime, you thought you were going to die.

“I never heard him raise his voice in all the years he was my coach. When you graduated, you knew you could go out in the world and accomplish anything.”

Cross country was equally successful under his guidance for ten years with a record of 174-56 for both boys and girls teams.

“It’s rewarding to work with young people, as it’s certainly not about the money. It’s about how you approach kids,” he says. “You get after them without demeaning them. What works for some might not work for others.”

Knapp came to Vicksburg from Western Michigan University in 1964 as a student teacher because it was close by his rental home in Lemon Park on Indian Lake. He had spent two years at Jackson Junior College, worked at Sturgis Foundry for two and a half years and served in the military for three years. He met his wife, Sue, when she invited him to her home in Wasepi for cherry pie that purportedly she made. He found out years later that his mother-in-law made the pie. The Knapps raised three sons, Ted, Tom, and Fred, and have five granddaughters.

In those days he played fast pitch softball, threw the javelin on Jackson’s track team and needed another specialty. He chose the 100-yard dash, because he figured he wouldn’t get lapped that way. He played baseball for the junior college when the team played prisoners at Jackson Prison. He tells the story of being let into the prison grounds and watching his team’s lead-off hitter get three balls called that were way wide of the plate. The catcher turned to the umpire with this word of caution, “You call another one like that ump, and I’ll kill you like I did the other six I’m in here for.” The next call was a strike.

Knapp has a profusion of these stories and keeps things light and fun–which is what he thinks sports should be about. Ask any of his former players, like Mike Hill who pitched for him in 1972-73 and today is vice president for sales and marketing for Prab Corporation:

“Ed Knapp’s coaching history is well documented, but details about the man may not be so well known. He keeps the athletes loose, allowing them to perform to their best ability. He shared some really funny one-liners with me as he made a trip to the mound to settle me down or change the pace of the game. I also believe that the dedication he shows to the sport and each student athlete creates an atmosphere where kids don’t want to fail and disappoint him, sometimes even more than they don’t want to disappoint their own parents.

“I have seen Coach Knapp hit fungos from home plate into a five gallon bucket in center field and I would not bet against him being able to do that again today! Ed is one of the finest, most genuine individuals I have ever met and he has been like a second father to me. I would not trust my life to many people, but Ed is definitely one that is in that category.”

Vicksburg Athletic Teams

Little Lambs at the Schoolcraft United Methodist Church

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Diane Rice holds a three day old lamb for her Little Lambs Learning Center children to pet.

By Sheryl Oswalt

As a shepherd cares for a flock, Diane Rice cares for her little ones at Little Lambs Learning Center in Schoolcraft. Licensed for 27 children, this four-star rated facility is owned and operated by the Schoolcraft United Methodist Church.   Rice has been the director of Little Lambs for the last four years and worked in child care for many years in Arizona before moving to Michigan.

Little Lambs was born out of the need to provide a Christian environment for those needing child care in the Schoolcraft area. The United Methodist church stepped up about 10 years ago and purchased a vacated doctor’s office at 110 E Clay Street directly behind the church. Once renovated, the center opened with a small staff including Peggy Manrose. Manrose remembers that Sheryl Stephens was doing daycare out of her home at the time and was asked to come aboard as their first director.   The purpose was not only to serve the needs of those in the church but as an outreach to the entire community. Today Little Lambs Learning Center provides care for children ages two weeks to 12 years.  It is open year round, Monday through Friday, from 6:30 a.m. -6 p.m. and closed on major holidays.

The facility strives to provide first-rate preschool and child care solutions to the families of Schoolcraft and the surrounding areas.  To this end, it has chosen to participate voluntarily in Michigan’s Great Start to Quality rating and improvement system. State standards for the program were designed by parents, professionals and national experts. Consideration for rating includes staff qualification, family and community partnerships, administration and management, environment and curriculum and instruction.

Participation in this program allows staff access to Michigan’s Quality Resource Center where staff members can receive coaching and consultation for developing quality programs, financial assistance for improvements, information on professional development and lending of teaching materials such as books, CDs and puzzles.

While the facility is currently running at capacity, it often has summer openings when some of the children are home with their parents. As children advance, it also has openings in the fall for the pre-school. Rice said the most challenging part of her job was providing a high quality program at an affordable price. The center is always thankful for donations of slightly used office paper for drawing, cutting and pasting, dress-up clothes, kitchen utensils and cell phones for play.

The job provides intangible rewards: Rice said she loves knowing that she can be a valuable resource to the families as they work through the everyday challenges of being parents. Whether giving advice or support to the parent with the baby that isn’t sleeping through the night or just helping parents deal with the daily demands of working and raising a family, Rice is proud of the extended family environment that Little Lambs provides to those that entrust them with their most valuable gifts, their children.

Like most of us, the children are looking forward to nicer weather so they can play outside on the great variety of outdoor play equipment. They enjoy walks to the Library to participate in summer programs, go to the park and visit the Schoolcraft Fire Station. Oliver Gibbs, one of the students, said his favorite thing about Little Lambs was being able to bring his toy, Mr. Freckles, with him. Taylor Stump said her favorite part was playing with the toys. Avery likes playing with her blanket while the other children are napping, and all of the kids agreed that Miss Diane was the best. For more information on Little Lambs Learning Center, call (269) 679-2508 or find the center at http://www.littlelambslearningcenter.com.

The children at Little Lambs enjoyed a visit from Scott Oswalt of Oswalt Family Farms of Vicksburg and his live lamb.

Performance Excellence in Athletics Comes to Vicksburg

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Simon Cholometes, owner and trainer for Arete Athlete, with wife Lauren and son Jax.

By Travis Smola

A new training center in Vicksburg seeks to help athletes train for maximum performance.

Everything about the center, in the Oswalt Electric building at 591 W Prairie Street, is geared towards helping serious athletes. “The main purpose is excellence and trying to help those athletes get to that point they didn’t think they could,” owner Simon Cholometes said. “This is primarily for young, dedicated athletes that have higher aspirations.”

He calls his new performance center and weight room Areté Athlete. The name Areté comes from a Greek word for excellence. And it’s this commitment to performance and helping others achieve their goals that he hopes to bring to the athletes he coaches. “It’s something I’m real passionate about,” Cholometes said.

Cholometes, originally from White Pigeon, is a former athlete himself. He ran track and was a safety and wing back at Northwood University and Minnesota State. He started off majoring in finance before he realized he was unhappy with it. Then he took an internship under an athletic director that changed everything. “That’s where I found my passion was through coaching,” Cholometes said. In addition to his new business, he is also pursuing a master’s degree in sports psychology.

The weight room has been built to be a scaled-down version of a typical college facility. Cholometes says he will work one-on-one with athletes to help develop programs and training geared towards each athlete’s individual needs. In addition to an extensive set of weights, the center features a space with a stretched elongated hallway. “The stretch is long enough to do a lot of speed work,” he said. He even has a set of hurdles that can be used in the space.

Cholometes has received endorsements from Sturgis high school athletic director Mark Adams and track coach Ken Mills. White Pigeon’s high school track coach Shawn Strawser and Brant Vallier, Primetime Baseball coach have also given Cholometes their seal of approval.

It didn’t take long for athletes to start looking to Cholometes for training. He is already working with several area high school students on everything from track and baseball to softball, soccer and more. “It’s a pretty big range,” he said. Cholometes expects to begin working with more athletes as spring sports programs start to gear up.

While the center is geared primarily toward serious athletes, Cholometes says he may open the center up for more serious power and competitive weight lifters in the future. For now, Vicksburg provides a good central location for him to reach out to many young athletes. “I feel like Vicksburg is a good area,” Cholometes said.

For more information, go to http://www.theareteathlete.com or call 358-3030.

Gently Used Clothing Store Opens

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Amanda Garcia with her son Brayden Martin on the left, bring some slightly used clothing in for Megan Peck and her daughter Lucy to purchase.

By Sue Moore

“Still in Style,” is Megan Peck’s choice of a name for her gently used clothing store that opened in February at 625 W. Prairie in Vicksburg. “Awesome prices, and Megan is great,” says customer Jennifer Morrow Storey on the store’s Facebook page.

“I buy right and sell right,” says Peck, who pays cash for used clothing that she sells in her store. “You can make money when you buy an article if you don’t overpay in the beginning,” is her philosophy. “I’ve got a mind like a steel trap and can remember my inventory which is all numbered and accounted for. I look at something and ask myself what I would be willing to pay and still feel good about it when I sell.”

The store’s inventory was collected in one month before opening she says. There were 2,600 items in stock in early February and now there are over 3,500 and growing. She doesn’t have an official return policy but she doesn’t want anybody to be unhappy so she tries to be understanding.

She specializes in children’s clothing and says that newborn to twelve months gently used articles are in great demand. She figures that people don’t want to sell these items as readily as older kids’ clothing because they have an attachment to these first months of the baby’s life.

“I buy and sell most everything in the line of clothing. Adult clothing shows up in prom dresses, jewelry, handbags, and jeans, also at bargain prices,” she says.

She received help from her partner, Mike Braat, who is the business person in the family. “I had a job I really liked and quit to take a chance on Mike’s concept because he was sure it would work. He is so creative and a jack of all trades and can do most anything.” Braat is the owner of Vicksburg Towing. His daughter, Abby, 11, lives with them. The couple’s daughter, Lucy, 4, comes with her mother to the store each day after nursery school. The store is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Phone 269-370-3870.