Expecting more of the same

Robinson set to begin first year as head coach with Foley baseball program

By: Mike Moore | Madison - Park News | Published March 26, 2015

 Bishop Foley team captain Nate Grys hauls in a fly ball during practice last week. Foley lost just three games in 2014 but failed to get out of the regional round.

Bishop Foley team captain Nate Grys hauls in a fly ball during practice last week. Foley lost just three games in 2014 but failed to get out of the regional round.

Photo by Sean Work

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MADISON HEIGHTS — There’s change at the top, but those involved in the switch vow not much will be different.

In fact, as Justin Robinson prepares for his first spring as manager of the Madison Heights Bishop Foley baseball team, he does so with the same elevated expectations.

“A program with high-caliber players that will contend for state titles,” the Ventures’ first-year skipper said last week.

It’s a lofty goal, but one the program has set — and realized — in the past half-dozen seasons.

The difference, though, is that for the past six years, Buster Sunde served as head coach, winning more than 200 games and three state titles from 2011 through 2013.

Sunde guided Foley to a 35-3 record last spring before falling to Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett in a Division 3 regional final.

It would be his final game as head coach.

“It came down to work and my son playing college baseball,” Sunde said. His son, Brett, is a junior at Western Michigan University and has started more than 80 games at catcher over the past two seasons. “I really haven’t been able to go see him play, and he’s a junior now. It’s a big year for him. … When you coach, you have to be all in. I think I tried last year to be at some of his games. But I felt guilty when I wasn’t there and felt guilty not being with our team.”

Sunde said he didn’t hesitate when stepping down, especially knowing who was there to fill his shoes.

“Justin is a baseball guy,” Sunde said, adding that he will serve as an assistant coach this year with Foley. “He’s played the game. He works with the kids well. He’s going to help develop and get kids to go on and play college baseball, and that’s one of the best things a coach can do.”

“It’s hard to follow a guy like Buster,” Robinson said with a laugh. “There are a lot of nerves, that’s for sure, when you get this promotion. But I know the respect Buster has for me, and that means a lot.”

Robinson graduated from Rochester High in 1999 and was part of the 1997 Class A state title team.

He played baseball at Rochester College and then in Texas in independent leagues.

As a coach, he spent the last six years as Sunde’s assistant and as the pitching coach.

“Buster put me in charge of the pitchers, and he leaned on me a lot,” Robinson said. “That’s where my strength is.”

Foley lost plenty of talent from last year’s squad, but Robinson shrugged at any thoughts of a rebuild.

“We’re very young, but I think this is a team with more Division 1-caliber players than we graduated last year,” he boasted. “We have a couple kids already signed, another couple kids who are already talking with D-1 schools. We’re not going to be that different, really. We’re going to play for big innings. We’re going to avoid small ball, hit the ball and try to score some runs.”

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