SOFTBALL Elk softball coach Breece enters Hall of Fame
The 1987 CMU Hall of Fame team with Kathy Moody as the catcher finished at number five in the nation. Courtesy photo
Kathy Moody-Breece. Courtesy photo
People may think of Kathy Moody-Breece as the long-term administrator of Sunrise Academy, but to sports fans she is one of Elk Rapids most successful coaches. Breece’s contributions to the sport of softball were recognized again as the former Elk softball coach received an induction to the Michigan High School Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame for the Class of 2020.
“This really took me by surprise. I received a nomination letter about a year ago, I filled out everything it asked for, and sent it back. I had forgotten about it, then last month I got a notice that I was to be included with the Class of 2020 inductees. I was just really surprised, but happy,” said Breece.
The induction is the fifth Hall of Fame award for the most successful coach in Elk softball history. She was inducted into the MHSSCA in 2009, the Belding High School Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012 and the ASA Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2018, the Central Michigan softball team of 1987 was inducted into the CMU Hall of Fame, including Kathy Moody, the team catcher. “We went to the College World Series and placed fifth in the nation. It was an honor to be recognized as a team, and great to see everyone,” Breece said.
After graduating from CMU in 1989, Breece took a job teaching at Kingsley. The Elk Rapids softball coaching position came open after the 1989 season. Breece applied and was handed the reins as the sixth Elk varsity softball coach since the sport started, back in 1980. She commuted between Kingsley and Elk Rapids for several years, until a teaching position eventually opened up In Elk Rapids. “I began teaching in special education at Elk Rapids, which cut down on my driving and I was able to get more vested into the community. This was important, it was necessary to build the softball program. It is still necessary today,” Breece said.
From 1990 until she stepped down as coach after 2003, Breece tallied a record of 264-186-3, earning three conference titles, seven district championships and two regional crowns. She was named “All Region Coach of the Year” after the 2003 season, and felt it was time to step down, but just from coaching. Breece started “Sunrise Academy” holding the position as the school’s administrator until retiring in 2019.
The coaching bug may have faded for Breece in 2003, but it did not disappear. She took over as the varsity softball coach at Traverse City West in 2007, coaching the Titans until 2014. “We had some successful years early, but we never were able to bring home a district championship,” Breece said. “The players were great, as were the parents and staff. As time went on, I realized I wasn’t feeling the drive that was needed to keep the program strong, the fundraising and developing the younger players. I knew what it would take, and it seemed like it was time to turn the job over to someone else. I was back to commuting too, the driving does take a toll,” Breece laughed.
Her final record as a varsity softball coach tallied at 371-338-4, her most productive years coming at Elk Rapids. “The induction scheduled for September lists TC West, but I also listed Elk Rapids on the form, I believe they just went with the final place I was at. This award still surprises me. I didn’t feel like I had the real attributes of a state championship to get in,” Breece said. Elk Rapids softball fans know differently. Breece’s hard work and dedication built the JV field and remodeled the minimum softball field she had inherited to what is in place today. She brought college teams to Elk Rapids to play in summer tournaments, drawing fans and potential players to the game of softball. A group of freshmen that went 4-25 finished 32-5 in 1998, the Elks best record to date.
“The 1998 team was our most successful. We won districts, but couldn’t get that regional title, that didn’t come until 2002, but we followed in up with another in 2003,” Breece said. Being able to coach her daughter, Katie, was another high point, along with many other great players over the years.
Breece may have retired but no one would be surprised to learn that she still coaches. “One weekend a month I go to Idaho. I work with a 16U Exposure team, helping to prepare them for college softball. These are kids that will likely play in D1 and D2 schools, we walk them through what they need to do, and work on. It is very rewarding, but the virus situation has halted what we were doing. I want this to be over as much as anyone, and get sports back,” Breece said. As far as Elk Rapids, she thinks that softball coach Erin Merchant is on the right track. Merchant was one of her players and was the first Elk to be awarded all-state. Breece likes to go to the games, but she usually stands away from the fans, watching from the outfield. “Erin is doing a good job; she is developing the program with the younger players. I definitely feel she is going in the right direction,” Breece said. That positive endorsement means good things for Elk softball down the road, once they finally get back onto the field. No one can argue with a five-time Hall of Fame former coach!
FOOTBALL Former Elks play football for Wolves and Panthers
Bocardo brothers hoist the championship trophy won in 2017. Courtesy photo
Thais Grays played for Olivet after high school, but injuries ended his football career – until the Panthers revived his playing fever. Courtesy photo
Names from the past of the Elk Rapids football program appeared this past Saturday when two semi-pro teams clashed in Petoskey in a game called “Battle of the North.”The Northern Michigan Wolves, formerly the Traverse City Wolves, founded in 2007, traveled north to take on the Northern Michigan Panthers, playing in their inaugural season.
The teams are members of the Great Midwest Football Conference, and the game greatly needed to fans starved for football, or any sports in general. The Wolves won 38-20, giving their owner and former Elk football player Pablo Bocardo Jr. a good start to a season plagued by virus conditions, like all sports. Also happy was the Wolves offensive coordinator Emilio Bocardo, a member of the 2010 Elk Lake Michigan Conference Champion football team. On the other sidelines, happy to be playing, but not so much with the results of the game, stood Thais Grays, former Elk football and track speedster.“We will see them again in a couple weeks,” Grays said, “We will have a little more experience then, it will be fun.”
Bocardo Jr graduated from Elk Rapids in 2004, his brother Emilio in 2011 and Grays in 2014. They never played together as Elks but are part of the brotherhood all Elk football players have after hanging up their cleats. For many players, that final high school game means the end of a football career. Grays was scheduled to play football at Olivet after graduation, but injuries and concussions forced him to give up the game. He moved back to Traverse City got a job and began thinking about his future.“It’s hard leaving the sport that I’ve been playing for so long,” said Grays. “I was just working, and I saw a few people posting on Facebook about a new semi-pro team up in Petoskey. I wasn’t sure if they were serious or not, or if I even wanted to play again, so I waited to see if they had a team. After they had tryouts, I checked on the team again, and it turned out to be people I knew from the area, some that had played for the Wolves in the past.I went to practice to check it out, it was like lighting the fire again.”
Grays gained some weight since graduation, but still has the jets.“I still got some speed left, and some good footwork, it’s like riding a bike you don’t really forget, and you just have to readjust.”
Grays decided to suit up once more, going with the Panthers. “With the Wolves being in Traverse and having another team in Petoskey it brings more competition and more sports to northern Michigan. I missed the original tryouts, and we practice just once a week, so I saw limited action this game, but I’ll be ready.”
The Bocardo brothers took a different route, both playing in the league since their respective graduations. Pablo has been with the team since the first year, playing and then coaching as the seasons went by. His love for the game is strong, year-round, he coaches Pop-Warner football and the eighth-grade team at Traverse City East. The Wolves were taken over in 2012 by Sean Liles, a local attorney with a love of football. Liles took over as the offensive coordinator, but the last few seasons he had to split time attending the sporting events of his own children. He looked no further than Pablo to find someone he could trust to turn the team over too, the transition began last year, and this season Pablo Bocardo Jr is listed as the owner of the team. His brother Emilio has played for the Wolves since graduating high school and took over the offensive coordinator position this season. If you look for the brothers on the sidelines during a game, make sure you know what number jersey they are, both Bocardos still suit up and play. “I started playing wide receiver for the first four years and then played QB for the last four, said Emilio. “Last year I was offensive coordinator and found a passion for coaching. My brother, the owner, gave me the opportunity to coach again this year so I took it.”
Emilio plans on playing if needed, Pablo wants to play. “I played linebacker in the opener. Mike Hansen is the head coach; he and Emilio will run the team. I may have ideas, but it is their show,” said Pablo.
The Panthers were formed from a large number of players that were on the Wolves last season. Pablo wanted to get younger players, instead of guys that were out of college and just love the game. “I want to attract the players that may have been overlooked while in high school. Northern Michigan high school football doesn’t get a lot of attention from colleges like it should. We want to try and attract guys that played, that might be going to college and want to make a team as a walk-on. We mix in veterans of course, to help mentor the younger guys. A guy right out of high school still has that burn to play; we hope to turn some of that into college offers. That is our mission right now, and I believe it will work. We also are running camps for kids, which is a great way to get our team out into the public, and show young players the proper skills,” Pablo said. Three former Elks that thought football was over, and all happy to be on the field. Go Wolves and go Panthers! The teams are playing a limited six-game schedule – victims of virus restrictions. The Wolves and Panthers have both Facebook pages, with more information available.
Elk Rapids News 212 River Street P.O. Box 176 Elk Rapids, Michigan 49629 231-264-6670 Phone 231-264-6685 Fax