Ari Klinger, Andre Landau and Max Gross. Right is Josh Goldberg of North Farmington High School.
From left are West Bloomfield freshman baseball players Ari Klinger, Andre Landau and Max Gross. Right is Josh Goldberg of North Farmington High School. (Gary Klinger)

North Farmington High School and West Bloomfield High School coach, pitchers look to the future. 

The North Farmington High School junior varsity baseball team didn’t win a lot of games this season. Neither did the West Bloomfield High School freshman baseball team.

But at least there was a season, after spring sports were canceled last year by the Michigan High School Athletic Association because of the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

And the young men on the North Farmington and West Bloomfield teams were able to begin their quest to make it to the varsity baseball roster at their school.

The North Farmington JV coach was Josh Goldberg, a 2020 Michigan State University grad whose first season ever as a coach was at his high school alma mater.

“Surreal,” is how Goldberg described the experience.

“I never intended to be a coach, at least not at this age (23),” he said. “But I really enjoyed the experience. It was fun. It was a familiar setting for me. I knew a lot of the kids and their families. It felt like I was back in high school.

“There were lots of learning experiences for us this season, both good and bad because of the pandemic. All will be beneficial.”

Besides being not being too many years older than his players, Goldberg could relate to some of them in a different way.

He didn’t play much on the North Farmington varsity baseball team when he was a junior. But he led the team in hitting when he was a senior, batting around .400 while catching and playing centerfield.

The lesson for his young players who weren’t getting much playing time was never stop working and learning.

Raiders’ Hot Streak

North Farmington finished 11-21. But the Raiders won eight of 11 games during a stretch in early May.

“We put the ball in play, we talked on defense, our base running was good … We did all the things we needed to do to win,” Goldberg said about the winning streak.

North Farmington’s top pitchers were Jason Bedol, Jacob Berg and Henry Nathan, three of the seven Jewish players on the team.

The other Jewish players were Josh Miller, Sam Melder, Adam Nothstine and Jack Schultz.

Bedol was 3-2 on the mound with a 1.32 ERA. He walked seven and struck out 58 in 26 1/3+ innings. He also was the team’s leading hitter with a .413 batting average.

Berg was 2-4 with a 4.28 ERA. He struck out 49 in 36 innings.

Nathan was 3-3 with a 5.77 ERA. He struck out 28 in 26⅔ innings.

So what’s next for Goldberg after his first foray into coaching?

Armed with a bachelor’s degree in marketing with a minor in sports management from Michigan State, he hopes to land a job with a professional sports team, preferably in baseball or basketball.

He has a particular interest in designing and marketing uniforms.“It’s a niche, but it’s a passion,” he said.

Lakers’ Arms 

Over at West Bloomfield, the freshman baseball team went 8-18 this spring, but the record is a bit deceiving.

Six of the losses were to powerhouse Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and the Grosse Pointe South junior varsity team. And after starting the season 0-10, the Lakers turned things around and went 8-8 the rest of the way.

“The kids stayed positive all year, even during that tough start,” said West Bloomfield coach Ken Rys. “They brought energy every day.”

West Bloomfield’s top pitchers were Ari Klinger and Andre Landau. Max Gross was the Lakers’ catcher when he wasn’t pitching.

The trio combined for all eight West Bloomfield pitching victories.

“Ari [Klinger] threw strikes. That’s the single most important thing for a pitcher in freshman baseball,” Rys said.

“He was very efficient with his pitches, and he was a bulldog. He finished every game he pitched, whether he started or relieved. I can remember only one ball hit hard off him all season.”

Klinger was 2-2, but with an 0.99 ERA. He allowed only 12 hits and three earned runs, struck out 25 and walked 11.

Landau is a hard thrower, Rys said.

“It was exciting watching Andre pitch,” he said.

Landau’s best game on the mound was a one-hitter he threw in a 3-1 victory over Birmingham Seaholm. The only run he allowed to the Maples was unearned.

He went 4-1 for the season with a 2.81 ERA. He was the winning pitcher in half of West Bloomfield’s victories.  He walked 17 and struck out 38.

“Our games had a different feel when Ari and Andre pitched,” Rys said.

Landau moved behind the plate when Gross pitched and he used Gross’ catching equipment.

“Andre threw a few runners out trying to steal. He has a gun for an arm,” Rys said.

Gross became a part of the pitching rotation as the season wore on, Rys said, and was effective because he pitched to contact.He was 2-2 with a 3.57 ERA. He walked eight and struck out 12.

He’s the son of Daniel Gross, cantor at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills.

Klinger played second base or third base when he wasn’t pitching. Landau also played at third base when he wasn’t on the mound.