ELSIE — Bob Foreback Jr. is just 47, but the longtime coach has already racked up 583 wins in 22 years leading the Goodrich High School varsity baseball team.
Off the field, he has molded countless high school students into professional men and women in his role as a GHS guidance counselor.
It was for those reasons and more that Foreback, a 1987 Ovid-Elsie High School graduate, was named to the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association (MHSBCA) Hall of Fame with the class of 2017.
“It’s the kind of thing, you think, you’re going to get when you’re old and retired. But I’m just old, I’m not yet retired,” Foreback joked Thursday. “This is nice to have while I’m still working. That was the biggest shock, I guess. It’s a big honor.”
Inductees are considered from nominations by MHSBCA members, association chairman Scott Evans said. Hall of famers are required to have 25 years of coaching experience or 250 career wins.
“If you don’t love the game and you don’t love kids, coaching public schools is difficult, because you have to coach whoever comes through that door,” Evans said. “You have to get the most out of your kids, and to have all of those wins over all of those years shows that Bob has consistently done that.”
Foreback joins fellow inductees John Fitzko of Swartz Creek High School, Craig Trychel of Bedford High School and Jerry Holley of Ann Arbor Pioneer High School.
They will be officially inducted this summer at Zuccaro Banquet Hall in Clinton Township. Foreback and the other inductees’ names will then be etched on a plaque permanently at Comerica Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers.
Foreback credits his father, retired O-E athletic director and varsity basketball team head coach Bob Foreback Sr., as well as his own baseball coach at O-E, Jack Nutter, with instilling in him the love of the game.
Nutter, who retired from the school in 2002, was inducted to the MHSBCA Hall of Fame in 2010.
“When I look back at my career, I think (Foreback Jr.) is probably more deserving than I was,” Nutter said. “He’s been real successful at Goodrich and I’m very proud of him.
“He considers not just the team and how they’re doing, he thinks about the kids. That’s what you have to do as a coach, and I think he does it better than I ever did,” he said.
Foreback remembers living next door to Nutter growing up and going on vacations with his coach’s family. He says he uses plays Nutter taught him as a high-schooler and his sign to steal a base is the same Nutter used.
“It’s going to be neat to be able to take my kids and my grandkids down (to Comerica Park) some day and see both of our names engraved there,” Foreback said. “Having the two of them around, as well as my mother (the late Wanda Foreback) was a huge influence on my entire life in baseball.”
After high school, Foreback enrolled at Saginaw Valley State University and walked on to the school’s baseball team. After a year of struggles, however, he left to pursue coaching.
“The players are a lot bigger and stronger in college than they are in high school, and I could never hit the high fastball well enough to succeed at that level,” Foreback said. “I think sometimes that helps me as a coach, because if you’re naturally gifted, you might not think through the game as much.”
By his early 20s, Foreback was coaching a basketball team at Bay City Western High School. He eventually received a bachelor’s degree in education from SVSU before moving on to receive a master’s degree in counseling from Eastern Michigan University.
Foreback moved on to Goodrich where, he said, the varsity baseball team had only two league titles to its credit. Since taking over, his teams have won 17 conference titles, 11 district championships, three regional championships and the state quarterfinal games three times, most recently in 2008.
“The expectations were low, which is probably why I got the job so young,” he said with a laugh. “There was no pressure.”
While he said he cherishes the success, he laments the Martians have never won the state championship.
“The most exciting part, I think, was going to the final four three times. I think you have to have a little luck when you get that far, because I’ve had some really good teams who have gotten bounced early and some teams that made it further than they should have. Maybe the next time we get there, the lucky bounces will go our way.”
Foreback credits a great base of parents in Goodrich — and a great upbringing in Elsie — for his soon-to-be hall-of-fame career.
“I got a really great group of parents who take their kids to lessons and do work outside of the regular season,” Foreback said. “That’s what you need to do to be successful, is be willing to put the work in … I don’t do anything special, I just try to teach them the game the way my dad and Mr. Nutter taught me.”