REPRINTED FROM THE AUGUST 3, 2019 TUSCOLA COUNTY ADVERTISER
This year’s Millington softball team will leave community members with more than just good memories.
Renovations five years in the making came to fruition this year – just in time for the spring sports season – which means the physical remnants of the school’s first team state championship will resonate along with the memories.
“We’ve been doing a lot of fundraising the last four of five years, especially with this senior group,” said Millington softball coach Greg Hudie. “And they have some really good parents who were on board with helping out.”
With a state powerhouse softball team, Hudie wanted to play on a softball diamond that matched his squad’s luster. And, with help, he hustled to have the field ready for the 2019 season.
“My goal was to get it as close to done as possible before (the 2019 senior class) left so they could enjoy it,” Hudie said.
This year’s group of seniors – McKenna Slough, Gabbie Sherman, Leah Denome, Sydney Bishop and Hannah Rabideau – have been the heart and soul of what has been a four-year whirlwind of firsts for the Cardinals’ softball program.
Prior to the 2016 season, Millington softball had never won a Tri-Valley Conference, district or regional championship. Over the past four years, the Cardinals have four of each. What began in 2016 with a team consisting of two seniors, two juniors and eight freshmen leading the Cardinals to an unlikely state semifinal appearance, culminated in June with a Division 3 state title.
Although the new Millington softball diamond can’t compare to what has become the Cardinals’ second home (Secchia Softball Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University, where the state semifinals and finals are held), the 2019 Cardinals, their parents and fans, enjoyed one of the nicest fields in the area.
Thanks to fundraising efforts, including donations from several local businesses, multiple upgrades were made to the softball field, including construction of new dugouts and the replacement of the field’s backstop from traditional metal fencing to nylon netting.
In addition, the stadium seating which had been between the backstop and dugouts was taken out, and placed directly behind the backstop, with traditional bleachers taking its place.
“We had a couple of sponsors who really stood up and helped us out a lot,” Hudie said. “And I wanted to make sure they understand how much we appreciate everything they’ve done for us.”
Hudie said McDonald’s Chevrolet of Millington, Frankenmuth Credit Union and Capital Stoneworks of Saginaw County were big contributors to the renovations, and that several other Millington-area businesses contributed as well.
The construction began last summer and was completed just after the 2019 softball season began.
“When this year’s seniors were in eighth grade, I said, ‘listen, other schools’ fields are looking way better, we need to have some fundraisers that are going to make a difference,’” Hudie said. “Everybody floated some ideas, like candy bars or bake sales, and I said, ‘I have an idea of what I want to do.’”
Hudie’s fundraiser idea was a wildlife dinner, which he admits was borrowed from Unionville-Sebewaing Area coaches who experienced success with the idea.
“The menu can include anything from bear, elk, venison, duck, alligator, anything like that,” Hudie said. “That’s our big fundraiser and it takes tons of help and manpower to pull it off.”
The first year of the wildlife dinner was 2015, Hudie said. It is held each March on the weekend in between the state individual wrestling regionals and individual state finals. Hudie is also the Millington varsity wrestling coach.
The event draws about 200 to 300 people each year, and is getting bigger every year, Hudie said.
“I’m a hunter and fisherman myself, so this intrigued me,” Hudie said. “I asked the parents if they would be willing to do this, and I’ll be honest, there were a lot of hems-and-haws at first. But I said, ‘If we do this, and do it right, your kid won’t have to sell $200 or $300 worth of candy bars.’”
The softball parents came on board.
“Not only do we have great players, but we have great parents who have put in a lot of time as well,” Hudie said. “And they put a lot of trust in me to decide what I wanted done, and what order I wanted it done in. Without the parents, we would never have been able to raise this money.”
The fundraiser has been held the last couple of years at the Arbela Township hall, and includes raffles and door prizes which are donated by local businesses.
John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.