Comerica Bank surprised Cass Technical High School with a $10,000 grant towards its baseball and softball programs. Pictured from left at a surprise assembly are Dejah Darkins, Cass Tech softball player; PAWS, Detroit Tigers mascot; Toia Dennis, Cass Tech softball player; Julie Schneider, head softball coach; Mike Ritchie, incoming Comerica Bank–Michigan president; Janice Tessier, president of Comerica’s Charitable Foundation; Lisa Phillips, principal of Cass Tech High School; Julius DuBose, Cass Tech associate baseball coach; Elaine Lewis, vice president of public affairs and strategic planning for the Detroit Tigers; Richard Miller, Cass Tech head baseball coach; Tom Ogden, president, Comerica Bank–Michigan; Dominick White, Cass Tech baseball player; Edward Tomlin, Cass Tech athletic director; and Ken Snapp, Cass Tech baseball player.
Springtime in Michigan is a time of uncertainty. For many, “Can I wear shorts or will I need my hat and scarf today?” is a common question. And when the forecast reads, “sunny and 60, with a chance of evening snow,” Michiganders aren’t surprised; it’s just a fact of life. Through all its uncertainty, spring always marks the start of baseball and softball season for communities across the state, including our own Detroit Tigers. Rain, snow or shine, you’ll find people breaking in their gloves, lacing up their cleats and dusting off their ball caps.
For the third consecutive year, Comerica Bank, with the help of the Detroit Tigers, set out to make baseball and softball season even more special by awarding two public high schools with a $10,000 Grand Slam Grant each. This year’s recipients were Cass Technical High School and Holland High School.
“The funding for high school athletics continues to dwindle. We applaud our partner Comerica Bank for stepping up to the plate and awarding the Grand Slam Grant to the baseball and softball programs at Cass Tech and Holland high schools,” said Elaine Lewis, vice president, public affairs and strategic planning with the Detroit Tigers. “The financial support provided to each school assists the teams with resources to foster a love for the great game of baseball.”
Starting in February, Comerica sent out a call for applications to high schools in southeast, central and west Michigan. Coaches, athletic directors and administrators got word of the Grand Slam Grant program and more than 60 applications were submitted. Next, Comerica selected the top three schools from southeast Michigan and another three from central/west Michigan. With the finalists chosen, it was up to the Detroit Tigers, including celebrity judge Andy Dirks, to select this year’s Grand Slam Grant recipients.
The fun didn’t end there, Comerica and the Tigers planned surprise pep assemblies at each school to announce the $10,000 Grand Slam Grant to students.
Cass Tech’s announcement came first. Students, including the baseball and softball teams, filed into the auditorium with no idea why they’d been summoned for a midweek assembly. Thomas Ogden, president of Comerica Bank–Michigan, called both teams on stage where he announced Cass Tech was the southeast Michigan 2013 Grand Slam Grant recipient. Detroit Tigers mascot PAWS, the DTE Energy Squad, DJ Kenny Valentino and Fox Sports Detroit celebrity emcee Shannon Hogan were on hand to provide entertainment for the students during the surprise assembly. The students received a congratulatory video message from Detroit Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks.
“Wow, this is giving back to the community at its best,” said Lisa Phillips, principal at Cass Technical High School. “It touches my heart that Comerica Bank and the Tigers would look down the street to Cass Tech and offer such support to our baseball and softball programs.”
“Comerica Bank is a proud supporter of Michigan’s hometown teams,” said Thomas D. Ogden, president, Comerica Bank-Michigan. “Cass Tech’s plans to use the Grand Slam Grant to fund much-needed equipment and uniforms and to increase participation in youth baseball and softball programs will prove to be a great value to the students and the community.”
“The Grand Slam Grant represents an opportunity for Cass Tech to be able to sustain its success as a program and allows us to give back to our community by offering an improved little league program,” said Julie Schneider, softball coach at Cass Technical High School.
The following day, Comerica representatives headed to Holland for the second surprise in as many days. Students poured into the Dutch Dome, Holland High School’s unique dome shaped gymnasium, for what they thought was a simple pep rally and nothing more. West Michigan Whitecaps mascot CRASH and celebrity emcee DJ Internio of 104.5 WSNX had the students pumped up throughout the assembly. The Dome erupted in applause when John Porterfield, Grand Rapids region president for Comerica Bank, announced Holland had been awarded the grant to finance field improvements, equipment and establish a training camp program.
“This creates more opportunities for the softball program to grow and will help us improve our facilities and equipment,” said John Anderson, softball coach at Holland High School. “The more good things we have, the more girls will probably want to come and play, and the more players we have the better things are going to get.”
In addition to the $10,000 grant, both schools received 60 tickets to see the Detroit Tigers take on the New York Yankees on April, 6 at Comerica Park, where they were recognized on the field. Coach Julie Schneider of Cass Tech and John Anderson of Holland threw out the ceremonial first pitches.
The Comerica Bank Grand Slam Grant program was created in 2011 to help public high schools in Michigan create, expand or improve a baseball or softball program. Past winners include Kalamazoo Central High School, Lincoln Park High School and Detroit Renaissance High School.
“At Comerica, we’ve enjoyed watching the Grand Slam Grant program grow to help so many community baseball and softball programs across Michigan, said Thomas D. Ogden, president, Comerica Bank-Michigan. “It’s inspiring to see the dedication and passion of local school administrators, coaches and future all-stars.”