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Trenton honors longtime softball coach PHOTO GALLERY

  • Former and current players were among the hundreds of people who came out on Friday to honor longtime Trenton softball coach John Biedenbach. The softball field was officially named "John Biedenbach Softball Field."

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Click here for a photo gallery of the game played last Friday between Trenton and Mercy

John Biedenbach not only thanked his children during Friday afternoon’s field dedication ceremony in Trenton but apologized for making them wait at times for him to come home from his “job.”

There are many reasons why you get a trophy. There are a lot of ways to earn a ribbon or a medal or a certificate or a plaque. But there is only one reason why a person’s name is forever attached to something: Commitment.

When Biedenbach became the Trenton softball coach in 1975 he was all in – commitment was what defined him and he was giving everything he had to the Trenton softball program.

This was always more than a job or even a passion for the longtime coach. It was his way of life.

And on a warm, sunny late Friday afternoon at Trenton High School, the years of dedication were rewarded. Unlike Mr. Holland in the famous movie, Mr. Biedenbach, who was elected to the Michigan HS Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1997, knows exactly how many lives he has touched over the many years of standing in that third-base box. If he didn’t, he was reminded on Friday as players from the last five generations returned home to say “congratulations,” “thank you,” and “we love you.”

“I have to admit I was surprised at how many people turned out,” said Biedenbach. “Maybe we’ve been doing something right all these years.”

There is no “maybe” about it.

Friday’s ceremony was called a dedication, and it was the result of years of dedication from Biedenbach for a program that has become one of the more successful and certainly one of the most respected in the state.

“Trenton hockey” carries instant credibility – as does “Trenton softball.” And credibility and respect and success are all earned on and off the field.

Friday’s ceremony confirmed that yes, John, you’ve been doing something right all these years.

“It was a special day,” Biedenbach said. “It was great to see the former players who came. There were nine players or more just from the 1982 team. That group has all stayed connected over the years and the bond was softball. It was really special to see them. That’s a unique bond they all have.”

There were many flips back through the history books.

“Yeah, a lot of reminiscing,” Biedenbach said. “It was great to see players and even meet their kids. It was really a lot of fun.”

Stop and think about this incredible honor for a moment. Putting your name on something – forever – is a pretty big deal. They named a high school after Edsel Ford in Dearborn and an arena after Joe Louis in Detroit. There are streets, schools and even churches named after Dr. Martin Luther King. George Washington has his bridge and monument; Henry Ford has a health system and a museum; Abraham Lincoln has a city in Nebraska and James Madison has one in Wisconsin.

There is even the “Graham” cracker and “Salisbury” steak.

Schembechler has his “hall.” Lombardi has his “trophy.” Arnold Palmer has his “iced tea” and Babe Ruth has his “candy bar.” And now John Biedenbach has his “field.”

Biedenbach was born in Illinois and graduated from St. Mathews HS in Flint. He received a baseball scholarship to Michigan State and was a second team All-American in 1965. He was named MSU Outstanding Male Athlete as a senior in 1966.

He was drafted by the Washington Senators and played in the minor leagues for five years.

In 1970, Biedenbach moved to Trenton to begin a career as an elementary physical education teacher. He started coaching softball in 1975 and basketball in 1977.

Biedenbach has had the fortune to help coach two families – one in athletics and another special one at home. His wife, Joan, has been a wonderful and loving assistant coach – make that co-coach – all these years. Her smile and warm personality have been a huge part of Trenton softball over the years. They have two sons John and Joe, the battery in the couple’s lives.

The numbers in the scorebook on the field also add up to success. From 1975 to 2014, Biedenbach’s softball teams are a combined 942-420-5 and have won 14 championships in four different leagues. The Trojans have won 23 invitationals, 14 district titles and have reached the Final Four three times.

The Trojans had their first 30-win season in 1988, first Final Four appearance in 1993 and were state runner-up in 2005.

His basketball teams went 445-274, won 19 district titles, five regional championships and reached the Final Four twice.

He has had 79 players go on to play in college – now that might be the most impressive number of them all. And many former players have gone on to coach.

Before the field dedication, Trenton took on Farmington Hills-Mercy. The Marlins are coached by Sara (Lesko) McGavin, who during her three seasons (1998-2000) with Biedenbach and the Trojans, went a combined 89-20-1. Her father, Alec Lesko, got the ball rolling on naming the field after the longtime Trenton coach back in October.

“Mr. B challenged us to give our best on the field, but he also encouraged us to excel in every aspect of life,” said McGavin, whose sister, Erin Lesko, was the first Miss Softball Pitcher in 2002. “I strive to provide my athletes with the same enthusiasm that I was fortunate to receive from Mr. B. Coaching at Mercy has given me a new perspective on the sacrifices Coach B must have made and the energy needed to build such a solid softball program.”

Biedenbach, now 70, still has the energy to coach. Just watch him during games and it’s easy to see that the passion still burns.

“I’m still competitive,” says Biedenbach, who isn’t retiring just yet. “At the end of each season I sit down and figure out what I want to do. I’m still in good health and that’s the biggest factor. So is time. There are other things to do.”

Coaches will tell you it’s a constant struggle between their two families – the one at home and the one on the field. Biedenbach has his wife, two sons and now grandkids to consider. He also has the team that now plays on the HIS field.

He gave up teaching five years ago. Two years ago he gave up coaching basketball. Softball will eventually be next.

While Friday was a celebration of the past, the future also has reason to celebrate.

“There are things I still want to do,” Biedenbach said. “We had a tough year as far as wins go this year but we had four freshmen starting for us at times. There are also some good young players on the way.”

Hopefully, those “good young players” will get to experience what all those former players who came back on Friday had the pleasure to experience. If not, they will certainly learn about John Biedenbach. After all, they will be playing on HIS field.

Last Updated: 5/29/2014 1:40:59 AM EST