Whinham excited to help grow Berkley High baseball program

By: Mike Moore | Woodward Talk | Published April 30, 2014

 Berkley High coach Tom Whinham, left, stands with assistants Michael Ogden, center, and Steve Baker. Whinham is in his first year as the varsity skipper.

Berkley High coach Tom Whinham, left, stands with assistants Michael Ogden, center, and Steve Baker. Whinham is in his first year as the varsity skipper.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


BERKLEY — Coaching is hardly a new concept for him, but baseball is a sport he says he’s still growing with.

He’s not new to the diamond, but as a varsity skipper, his career is all of four games old.

“But I know how passionate this community is about the game,” Berkley High coach Tom Whinham said last week. “Baseball is a big deal around here, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”

Whinham has coached before, even at the varsity level.

He spent time as a track and field coach, as well as a basketball coach earlier in his career at previous stops, but baseball managing was never really on his radar.

“But as my son got older and started playing more, I started to get more into it,” Whinham explained.

A teacher for 33 years — the past 16 in the Berkley district — Whinham had coached youth baseball in Berkley and spent the past three seasons as an assistant with the Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood program.

And then, prior to the 2014 season, Jordan Gruppen stepped down at Berkley, and Whinham “jumped at the opportunity to do this,” he said.

“I never really thought about it before, because Jordan is a younger guy and was doing such a great job,” Whinham said. “It’s my first head varsity job in baseball, and I really am thrilled.”

Prior to the season starting, Whinham and Gruppen talked about the team and about the program.

The first-year coach also worked with a number of his current players in the youth leagues for a few years, so he wasn’t coming in to a totally new atmosphere.

The start to his new coaching career was, however, hampered by bad weather.

“We’ve had a whole bunch of games postponed or canceled, so that’s been tough,” Whinham explained. “But things have looked good. It’s a very athletic team, and when we play fundamentally sound, we’re going to be tough to beat.”

Fundamentals are the focal point for Whinham and will be for the duration of his managerial reign.

“I expect it,” he said. “I want our pitchers throwing first-pitch strikes. I want our defense making the routine plays, things like that. That’s how you become successful.”

Berkley was 1-3 at press time, having beaten Troy High 3-1 in the season opener, before dropping three straight games to Bloomfield Hills High.

But it was a 4-3 extra-innings loss to the Blackhawks where Whinham thought his guys looked their best.

“We pitched so well,” he said. “The defense was making all the plays we needed to, and the offense did its job at some key moments. We lost the game, but that’s how I want us to play every time out.”

Now, and in the future.

“My goal for this program is to provide an outstanding baseball experience for the kids,” Whinham said. “It starts with fundamentals, and the experiences they have with teammates and on to how they can learn to appreciate what hard work will do for them. I feel like we’re building something here. We have a freshman team again, which is great news. Like I said, this is a community that loves its baseball, and I’m privileged to be a part of it.”