By Dave Hart

MUSKEGON – Brandon Melchert would love to be pitching for the Muskegon Clippers at this week’s National Amateur Baseball Federation World Series in Toledo, Ohio.LSJ Logo incert

And the Clippers would love to have him on the mound, particularly since he was one of their best relievers last season.

But Melchert’s summer season never really began. He noticed some pain in his throwing shoulder – a recurrence of a problem he firstclippers experienced last fall – and only pitched in one game for the Clippers this year.

But he still attended all but one Clippers game this season – including road games – acting as an extra coach of sorts, and jack-of-all-trades.

Sometimes he helped pitchers warm up between innings in the bullpen. Sometimes he tossed the ball with position players to keep them warmed up. He even played a little outfield in one game, and got a turn at bat.

Melchert, 22, a former All-State pitcher at Mason County Central High School, stuck around all summer because he’s also a college marketing intern for the Clippers. But that’s daytime work. He could have gone home at the end of his work day, even on game days.

But he stayed for the games, which were almost all at night. That made for some very long days, but he didn’t mind.

“When I signed up to play for the Clippers I made a commitment,” said Melchert, a second-year Clipper who played for the Muskegon Community College baseball team for three years, and the Aquinas College team the past two.

“My biggest thing in life and baseball is when you make a commitment, you need to be there. I just wanted to be the best teammate that I can be and do what was needed.”

Melchert wasn’t able to make the trip to Toledo, where the Clippers are scheduled to play three games in pool play Thursday and Friday in the 15-team tournament. The top teams in each pool will qualify for the championship round on Saturday and Sunday.

He had to stay behind and help at Marsh Field, which is hosting another tournament this weekend.

But he will follow the Toledo results as closely as he can. And he believes the Clippers, who won the title of an NABF regional at Marsh Field last weekend, can make a name for themselves against some of the top summer college teams in the Midwest.

“I pitched in that tournament last year, for the Michigan Monarchs, because the Clippers decided not to go,” Melchert said. “I thought the Clippers could have won it last year. They were way better than the Monarchs, and the Monarchs took second in the tournament.”

Melchert contributed a great deal to the Clippers’ success in 2015, helping them capture their first of two consecutive Michigan Summer Collegiate Baseball League titles.

He only allowed two runs on 13 hits in 24 innings on the mound. He led the team with a gaudy 0.75 earned run average and picked up three wins during the season.

This season he pitched three innings in the Clippers’ first game before he realized his season and career were over.

He did appear in one more game in a non-pitching role. He filled in for teammate Nick Holt, who had to leave the contest for personal reasons, played outfield and got one at- bat.

He struck out.

“Hitting is something you just cannot step up and just do,” said Melchert. “It had been about four years since I had an at-bat and I felt very uncomfortable.”

But the strikeout didn’t matter. What was important was Melchert’s commitment to his team, and his willingness to stick around and help any way he could.

“He has been a tremendous teammate that has done everything that we have asked him to do,” said Clippers Manager Walt Gawkowski. “I have a lot of respect for Brandon.”Harbo Cinema web ad