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LAKE LEELANAU — Jack Garthe never got to see the baseball field in a Lake Leelanau St. Mary coaches uniform last season.

He certainly hopes that changes this year.

The Eagles hired the 2015 St. Mary grad as head varsity baseball coach, just six years after he graduated following a standout career on the diamond of his own. Now, he hopes to guide others to the same success.

He joined the program last year as an assistant coach, when the team put in just one week of practice before spring sports were shut down, and the entire 2020 high school baseball season was wiped out.

“I’ve always really seen myself as a coach,” Garthe said. “And to come off a year where baseball never really happened, it’s almost like starting over from scratch.”

The 24-year-old played at St. Mary under coach Steve Plamondon, going on to pitch at Aquinas College from 2015-19 and earning a degree in history and psychology. He’s finishing his teaching certification through Grand Valley State University.

“It’s amazing to me,” Garthe said. “For awhile it’s what I’ve wanted for myself. It’s been a dream to coach here.”

Garthe is student teaching now, as well as coaching the girls basketball junior varsity team at LLSM.

This year’s Eagles team has senior Jacob Schaub and Reece VanderWulp back, as well as players such as Shawn Bramer, August Schaub and Alex Flores. LLSM will only feature a varsity team this spring, but recently started up a middle school feeder program to help prepare players and increase interest.

“He’s always been keen to coming back to Lake Leelanau St. Mary, biding his time to turn his youthful exuberance into practice experience,” Eagles athletic director Nick Papes said. “It’s nice to have a guy who lives and breathes Lake Leelanau in the program.”

St. Mary fields its own standalone program since 2016 after co-opping with Leland for a long time.

Garthe nearly pitched the Eagles to a district upset of Glen Lake in 2015, when the Lakers pulled out a 7-3 victory and eventually advanced to the Division 4 quarterfinals.

“If it wasn’t for the innings requirement, I think Jack might have had a shutout going,” Papes said. “Jack threw a gem and kept Glen Lake in check.”

Papes said Garthe brings a style that balances new metric-focused baseball with classic old school.

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