GREENVILLE — Softball is a passion for Brian Zdanowski.
Starting in high school and continuing today, Zdanowski has spent multiple nights and weekends each summer playing softball around the state of Michigan.
Because of his skill and commitment, Zdanowski — now athletic director for Greenville High School — was recently selected to the Michigan Amateur Softball Association’s (MASA) Hall of Fame.
“I was nominated about nine years ago. They put a lot of the onus on the nominee to gather information to send in and that kind of thing,” Zdanowski said. “I don’t think I took it as serious the first time around. I sent in a little information and didn’t make it. This time, I made sure I followed through with all my information, statistics and photos.”
The MASA Hall of Fame was started in 1982. It was created to honor those who have played a major role in the growth and development of softball throughout the state.
There are six categories to gain induction including player, commissioners, managers, meritorious service, sponsors and umpires. Zdanowski was inducted as a player.
“I started playing in 1981. It was before my senior year,” Zdanowski said. “I just got into it with some friends from Little League and I used to hang around some guys a couple of years older that played. One of them coached me in Little League and we have had a life long friendship.”
Zdanowski graduated from Standish-Sterling in 1982. His professional career as a teacher and administrator has taken him around the state.
Now known for the long ball, Zdanowski started his softball career as a singles hitter.
“It just kind of evolved. I started out hitting singles, just getting used to it at first,” Zdanowski said. “It evolved into playing every weekend, playing three or four leagues a season and a lot of traveling.”
Zdanowski has played in multiple states in various tournaments, including national tournaments.
“They used to have All-America teams and a made some of the teams in these national tournaments,” Zdanowski said.
In addition to playing, Zdanowski has helped to run and organize softball tournaments in places like Bay City, Traverse City, Alpena and more.
“It went hand-in-hand with being an athletic director,” Zdanowski said. “It seems like as I moved around and went to different schools, I ended up on some pretty good teams and we were very successful.”
Zdanowski was hired at Greenville Public Schools in August of 1998. Just prior to the Danish Festival Softball Tournament.
It wasn’t long after that and Zdanowski was playing for The Detroit Free Press team. The Free Press, consisting of local players was extremely successful in the area, around the state and in national tournaments.
“I’d seen them play before, but I didn’t really know how good they were. I just liked their uniforms because they looked like the (Detroit) Tigers,” Zdanowski said. “One thing led to another. I had a makeshift tryout and have been apart of the team ever since.”
The Free Press is no longer the team name. The team has evolved over the years, but still includes many of the best players in the area.
“Most of the guys I first started playing with are retired,” Zdanowski said. “They were slowing down when I first moved here, but we ended up going full time and playing a lot of state and national tournaments.”
Zdanowski still plays twice a week in leagues. Tuesday’s he plays in Greenville (once his son is finished with Little League) and on Thursday’s in Trufant. His team still play in at least on tournament a month.
“I would like to play a little more, but it gets tougher and tougher getting the guys together,” Zdanowski said.
Zdanowski plays mostly first base now, but has played in the outfield, third base and also shortstop.
“I know the guys I play with now would laugh at this, but I played shortstop the most years in of my career,” Zdanowski said. “If you can hit, there is always a position. I can hit and always had a position.”
Zdanowski will turn 50 years old next year. He doesn’t plan on letting that stop him from playing softball.
“I want to play in Trufant as long as I can and next year I will be able to play in the 50 and older league in Grand Rapids,” he said. “I want to play in a few more tournaments out of state too, whether it’s Las Vegas or Florida.
Zdanowski will inducted at a banquet in Midland in January as a member of the 2014 Hall of Fame class.