From humble beginnings …
They are a staple at shortstop and second base – think Whitaker, Trammell or John and Paul or peanut butter and jelly. Ben Cole at second and Aidan Brewer at shortstop for the Greenhills baseball team – seems like forever, but it really hasn’t been.
“My first year playing for Greenhills I got to play right away but it was in the outfield,” says Cole, now a senior for the Gryphons. “It wasn’t until about our third game where Aidan moved over to shortstop and I took second base.”
The future was set, but it still took a while for John and Paul to find perfect harmony.
“Our first year was tough,” Cole admits. “We didn’t win that much due to young talent that was being developed. As a freshman on varsity, competing with kids a lot older than you was a humbling experience that taught me a lot.”
Things started to turn – slowly – the following year.
“Our sophomore year was sort of the same, even though we won a couple more games, there were signs that the team was developing,” Cole said.
Everything changed last year. Potential was replaced by production. The idea of being good became simply being good – and at times great. The hard work and playing with kids a lot older started to pay off with wins and even championships.
The Gryphons broke the school record for wins in a season with 18 and won a District Championship.
“Last year was very exciting,” said Cole, whose brother Alex Cole is a junior and plays first base and also pitches for the Gryphons. “I really stepped up at the plate compared to my other two years.”
He certainly did. Cole hit .400 on the regular season to earn All-League honors, All-District honors and an All-District Academic Award.
“It is a ridiculous luxury to have Aidan and Ben in their third year starting at shortstop and second base,” says Greenhills coach Thomas Ward. “They have a great chemistry and each is a student of every detail of their position. They have both embraced leadership roles and have led much of our infield work during practices and on our spring break trip.”
Ward calls Cole their “Mike Trout at the plate.” Batting in the two hole, Cole is again hitting .400 with an amazing .550 on-base percentage.
“The best part of coaching Ben is that he is such an intense competitor that loves the game,” Ward said. “Last year we had an 11-inning game against Royal Oak Shrine. We were on a five-game losing streak and badly needed a win. The two things that stick out to me are Ben making a game-saving diving play to prevent the winning run from scoring. The other was Ben supporting his brother on the mound, getting vocal with his energy and enthusiasm. You could see how badly he wanted to win and how much it meant to him.”
Greenhills is off to an impressive start and as the weather warms up so should the Gryphons – they have the talent to stay hot for the whole season. Cole says this is a very important season for him and he wants to leave his mark both on and off the field.
“Personally, my goals for this spring are to compete every single game and be a good teammate,” he said. “With it being my last season of baseball ever I’m not trying to get wrapped up in the stats as I know as long as I push my teammates and myself every day, the stats will take care of themselves. I would like to do whatever I can to help this team win, whether that is hopping up on the mound, getting on base, hitting well, playing solid defense, or picking up my teammates.”
Cole says this Gryphons team is a “perfect balance of competitiveness and looseness.”
“Since we all go to a small school the baseball team has great chemistry,” he said. “We are all close friends, and spend a lot of time on and off the field together. We have fun while competing at high level baseball every day. We all push each other and hold each other accountable to be our best selves. Everyone on this team has a role which has made our communication extremely good.”
And how good is this team?
“I believe the sky’s the limit,” he said. “We have an extremely well rounded team that is very deep. We are on pace to break the win record again, and also we are hoping to go much further in the playoffs. Not making it to the state tournament in my eyes would be a disappointment due to our effort and talent.”
The Gryphons this season are deep. Anyone in the lineup can hurt you with the bat and they are solid on defense. With all that said, the pitching could be the strength of this team with five guys who have proven they can get people out.
“Our team can start a rally from any point in the lineup, and every starter already has at least one full year of varsity experience under their belts,” Cole said. “Our dugout is alive and loud.”
Yes, the Gryphons are certainly making noise in the Catholic League and beyond.
Cole began playing baseball when his family was living in France. Like many players, he started playing after watching his older brother play.
“Living in France, my brother played for a travel team called the St. Nom La Breteche Saints and it looked like a lot of fun so I tried out the next year,” he said. “When I moved to America, playing baseball transformed itself from a hobby to an obsession as I loved the perfect mixture of individual performance and teamwork. Everyone in baseball has their role, unlike other sports you can’t choose who gets the ball or the bat in the moment.”
Cole also liked the strategy of baseball and the challenges of the game.
“I liked how complex the game was and how much strategy it took,” said Cole, who has been playing travel baseball for the last four years with Michigan Sports Academy out of Saline. “But mostly I loved how hard it was. Playing baseball is one of the hardest things I have ever done, as the sport is built around so much failure. Still learning to overcome this challenge is what brings me back to the diamond every year.”
Ben, the son of Matthew and Nicola Cole, has a 3.83 grade-point average at Greenhills. He will be attending U-M next year and will be studying in the Undergraduate Business BBA program at the Ross School of Business.
“I enjoy the business world and wish to pursue a career in it and I picked the University of Michigan because it is close to home and my father went there,” he says. “Furthermore, it is a prestigious institution and I am lucky to be studying in their business school as it has a phenomenal reputation.”
Greenhills also has a phenomenal reputation and Cole says his experience there has been “special.”
“Being challenged academically early on with the rigorous curriculum the school offers and being challenged athletically from starting all four years on varsity, I had to embrace the struggle,” he said. “Nevertheless, these last years I have been able to see it pay off. Our baseball team is climbing to new heights and I am very happy with my college plans. I don’t believe I would have been able to achieve and develop as much as I did at any other school. Now it has become bitter sweet, having to say goodbye is a challenge but at the same time I am excited to see where this season will take us, and for my further academic plans.”