By MIKE ECKERT
TRAVERSE CITY — Pat McDonald called his own shot.
While he didn't point to an outfield fence and proceed to hit a home run, he did predict 20 years ago that he'd be the varsity baseball coach at Traverse City Central. That came true on Monday.
"My parents reminded me that my senior year, I told them I wanted to come back here and coach Traverse City Central," McDonald said. "Did I really think that? No. But it's great to be back and at a place I'm familiar with. And I have a passion for Trojan baseball."
McDonald, a 1992 TC Central grad and current general manager at Premier Health & Fitness, replaces Mike Gle who stepped down in August.
"It feels really good," McDonald said of getting the job. "I got the keys and walked through the facilities. It's exciting to think it's something I'm in charge of."
While a first-time varsity coach, McDonald is no stranger to the program. Besides playing for TC Central, he was an assistant coach for eight seasons at his alma mater under Ian Hearn.
"Working with Ian Hearn was a great experience," McDonald said. "He's a top-notch high school coach. He trusted me to run the pitching staff and really believed in me. The biggest thing we did was pushing kids to college. That was the best feeling, when kids took that chance to go play college baseball. Back then, we were running two to three kids a year. We really took a lot of pride in that."
McDonald knows the path from TC Central to college baseball well. He went on to play at Grand Rapids Community College and the University of Indianapolis. There, he was a three-time All-American and set the Division 2 record for saves.
Now, McDonald works at Premier Fitness as the general manager and a personal trainer.
"He has a knowledge of working with people and getting the best out of them," TC Central athletic director Cody Inglis said. "That's something that really stood out, in addition to his experience as a Trojan alum. He understands the history and tradition of Trojan baseball. He was a part of a lot of that success as a player and assistant coach, now he has a chance to do it as a head coach."
Inglis said 12 people applied for the job and McDonald was the best fit after two rounds of interviews.
"I think one of the challenges for Pat is being a non-faculty coach," Inglis said. "The advantage Pat will have is that (two faculty members are on staff with) Jeff Turner is his JV coach and Aaron Bigger is our freshman coach. So the fact that he has two sub-varsity coaches that are going to stay on with him is huge. That's going to be a key connection for him."
"I wish I was in there (at the school) with the kids," McDonald said. "But, having an outside person come in adds a different element. I think it helps the kids have a different perspective from someone who is not a teacher. It's somebody who actually cares about baseball, not somebody who is just there because they have a teaching job."
Gle stepped down to spend more time with his family. In his five seasons coaching the Trojans, they won four Big North Conference titles, three district titles and reached the regional finals three times.