Jack Hall Blog
ESCANABA, MI--APRIL 17, 2015-1:11 A.M.
A new era has begun for Upper Peninsula high school baseball.
 
The Bark River-Harris High School now has a varsity baseball team, and the Bronco boys had a successful debut on Thursday, bearting Stephenson, 8-5, in Daggett.

It wasn't that long ago that the only high school baseball programs in the U.P. were in Sault Ste. Marie, and, as of 2002, in Escanaba. Can't do it because of the long winters, we were told. Well, there are a lot of people who love baseball up here, and a lot of kids who grew up playing Little League in the summers. Why not have high school baseball in the U.P.?

Well, Superior Central made the plunge a few years back. Then it was Norway. Then it was Marquette. Two years ago, it was Gladstone. Last year, it was North Central. And now, Bark River- Harris, with some good talented players like Drake Draze and Logan Heim.
 
The U.P. is always, it seems, discounted by some downstate.
 
But how about Gladstone winning the state championship in softball last year, and the Braves baseball team making the Final Four?
 
How about St. Ignace and Calumet winning girls basketball state championships, and North Central winning a boys state championship?
 
How about Ishpeming winning two football state championships in a row in recent years, and how about the Escanaba and Houghton hockey teams making it to Compuware this spring?

Our kids up here can compete against anyone the State of Michigan has to offer.
 
All we have to do as adults is give these kids the opportunity. And Bark River-Harris is the latest to do that in baseball, and, by the way, the new BR-H girls softball team won their opener, too, on Wednesday! Good job, kids...

---later, Jack

WELLS, MI--APRIL 16. 2015-2:44 A.M.
The Wells Sports Complex has been renamed the Hannahville Ice and Turf Complex after the Hannahville Indian Community paid to make major upgrades to what was the "second ice sheet" years ago.
 
That facility hadn't been used for years, and it was a huge waste.
 
Well, late last year, the Delta County youth oftball, soccer, and baseball communities formed an ad hoc committee to look for ways to re-use that part of the complex. The result? Hannahville, the Dagenais Foundation, and other local donors stepped up, and now that old unused rink has been retrofitted into a new 20,000 square foot a "turf room" that local soccer, baseball, softball, and tennis teams can use.
 
The new room has nets and batting cages for baseball and softball, and it also includes a ten-foot wide track. Lots of kids have already used it. It is a great thing for the kids in our community.
 
And Hannahville should be praised. They often do things behind the scenes that many of us don't hear about. For example, the tribe also stepped up a couple of years ago to help the Wells Sports Complex buy new energy-efficient compressors for the main ice rink.

That saved the rink $30,000-40,000 a year in energy costs. And it prevented the possibility of that rink being shut down for good. Then, where would our kids play hockey and have figure skating? It may have been lost to our community, if the tribe had not helped out.
 
And so, while the building bears the name of the Hannahville Indian Community, it remains owned by Wells Township, and will be run by the Sports Complex Authority. But now every one of you knows exactly who saved this facility from financial ruin. Hannahville did.

---later, Jack

ESCANABA, MI--APRIL 15, 2015-2:00 A.M.
The next few weeks will be like heaven for me.

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs get going Wednesday night. And for me, every night, when I get home for work, I will be glued to the television, watching what I believe is the greatest sports tournament in the world.

I always root for the Canadian teams, because that is where I am from, and it is where the game of hockey is loved by the most passionate fans. This year, five of the NHL's seven Canadian franchises are in the playoffs. Unfortuately (in my opinion), four of them will face each other, as Montreal takes on Ottawa, and Calgary takes on Vancouver. Both will be wars!

I am also hoping that Winnipeg can somehow upset top-seeded Anaheim. Hopefully, the Jets can at least beat the Ducks once in Winnipeg so those crazy fans can celebrate.

But above the Canadian teams that I root for, it's the Detroit Red Wings. I love the Wings more than any other team, and I am hopeful for their first round series against Tampa Bay, even though the Lightning kind of dominated the Red Wings during the regular season.

Wings Coach Mike Babcock has chosen youngster Peter Mrazek to be the starting goaltender, over veteran Jimmy Howard. I am worried about this. But Babcock knows what he's doing, and he knows more about NHL hockey than I do, that's for sure!

The Wings-Lightning first game is Thursday night and you can hear all of the action, across much of the Upper Peninsula, on Magic 97 WGLQ...FM 97.1. Go Wings!

---later, Jack

ESCANABA, MI--APRIL 14. 2015-1:12 A.M.
It's been four years since a young man was found dead inside a burning car on Escanaba's south side.
 
But Escanaba Public Safety Detective Darin Hunter has not forgotten, and has not given up on finding the person or persons responsible for the death of 26-year-old Adam Campbell.
 
It was at 3:30 in the morning on April 9, 2011, when Escanaba Public Safety responded to a routine call to put out a car fire in an alley in the 300 block of South 19th Street. When they looked inside the vehicle, officers were horrified to find Campbell, dead.
 
Hunter told me on Monday that the investigation has never ended.
 
"We've done countless interviews and taken sworn depositions. I want to say that, off the top of my head, I have at least 35 sworn depositions," Hunter said. "We've had a number of items submitted to the MSP (Michigan State Police) Crime Lab for analysis, looking for any type of forensic evidence that we could use to help solve this case."
 
But so far, there have been very few forensic clues to help investigators get closer to pinpointing who caused Campbell's death. The best evidence Hunter has so far is surveillance video inside downtown Escanaba bars that Campbell visited that night.

"I was able to, along with the help of other detectives in the area, pretty much 'timeline' Adam's last hours. What I'm missing, though, is that very critical LAST hour of Adam's life. Obviously, that last hour contained his death."
 
Hunter, and the entire public safety department, are hanuted by this kind of a crime, which, fortunately, happens very infrequently in Escanaba.
 
"It's one of those that's been etched in my mind because I know that, after not only talking with Adam's mom, and Adam's (now deceased) dad, they want some closure," Hunter said. "It's something that not only the mother needs, his daughter needs, the community needs closure as well."
 
And so Hunter is making this appeal to the public, as the four-year anniversary of Campbell's death passes.
 
"I'm looking for somebody to step up, that may have been involved, or may have been told what happened directly by the persons involved," an emotional Hunter told RRN News Monday afternoon. "I need for that person to dig down deep. I can understand if they're scared. I can understand if they're worried. But if it was someone in your family, or your own child, I would hope that you'd want that person to come forward."
 
Technically, this is not a "murder" investigation, although Hunter calls Campbell's death "suspicious" and foul play is certainly believed to have been involved. There is a reward of up to $6,000 being offered for information that leads police to whoever caused Campbell's death.
 
A special Facebook page called "Justice for Adam Campbell" has been up ever since his death, and the Escanaba Public Safety Department has a Facebook page where you can send private messages with information. You can also call 786-5911 and give information that way, and you can remain anonymous.

ESCANABA, MI--APRIL 13, 2015-1:02 A.M.
The Detroit Tigers won again on Sunday and they have finished the first week of the season with a 6-0 record. Hope they can keep it up all summer long. That bullpen is still a disaster waiting to happen, and not many Tigers fans have faith in Joe Nathan to actually close a game.

But, 6-0 is 6-0, and I will enjoy it for now. On the other end of the dial, the Milwaukee Brewers are off to a 1-5 start. Ouch! And my favorite team of all time, the Chicago Cubs, are 3-2. Not sure what to think of them just yet. But baseball is a long season, so we shall see!

Personally, I will put the baseball season in the back of my mind for a bit. The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs get under way this Wednesday. The Detroit Red Wings are in for a 24th straight year and will open against Tampa Bay. And five Canadian teams made the final 16!

Add to all of that the high school baseball season getting under way, and I have a lot to keep me occupied over the next few weeks. It's a great time of year!

---later, Jack

ESCANABA, MI--APRIL 10, 2015-1:17 A.M.
And "The Streak" lives on! The Detroit Red Wings have qualified for the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs for a 24th straight season. Think about that.
 
What were you doing 10 years ago today? 15 years ago? 20 years ago? 24 years ago?
 
As for me, 24 years ago today, I was a student at Northern Michigan University. To think that the Red Wings have made the playoffs every single year since then is incredible. It is the longest such streak for any team in any of the major professional sports.

Some of my friends were on Facebook ripping the Wings as a team with many flaws. Yes, I guess there's some truth to that. They've had injuries, and may enter the playoffs with the most inconsistent duo of goaltenders in the league in Jimmy Howard and Peter Mrazek.

But, friends, stop complaining and sit back and enjoy it! As Red Wings fans, we get to have extra games beyond the regular season's 82 games. Fans of many other NHL teams would love to be able to say that. How about the Los Angeles Kings? They won the Stanley Cup last year, but won't even be in the playoffs this year.

Detroit Red Wings. 24 straight years. And you can listen to every single Red Wings playoff game live, across all of the Central U.P., in your cars, homes, and businesses, on the 100,000-watt Magic 97 (97.1 FM) WGLQ!

---later, Jack

ESCANABA, MI--APRIL 9, 2015-2:24 A.M.
So, will this time finally be the right time for the sale of the Escanaba Power Plant?

The City of Escanaba has been trying for years to sell the half-century-old plant.
 
It did its job for this community for generations, but now, the fact is, it is much cheaper to buy power off of the grid. Proposals from others to buy the plant and run it, not on coal, but on alternative energy sources, have come and gone. Every time, for various reasons, the proposals have fallen through.
 
So, I can excuse the Escanaba City Council for being a tad skeptical of this new proposal from Sterling Energy out of Gary, Indiana. This company wants to turn the current coal-powered plant into one that uses biomass and wood waste to make electricity.

If you think that you've heard that before, well, you have, in various forms. Escanaba Green Energy tried for more than two years to come up with the financing needed to buy the plant, save the jobs of the men and women who work there, and produce "green" power here.

That didn't work out. Now we have Sterling Energy, offering a fraction of what others had offered, to pay for the plant. But, maybe that's just the point. Did those others offer too much?
 
I mean, let's be honest. The city leadership is pretty desperate to get rid of that plant, one way or another.
 
I suspect that you won't have to offer too much cash to get a deal done. But only if it's the right deal, one that doesn't leave the city (and the politicians on the city council) holding the bag if the company (Sterling) can't make a profit making electricity here in Escanaba.
 
So, Sterling is offering a mere $250,000 for the plant. But it is also planning to sink $40 million into switching the plant from coal to biomass. That's a nice chunk of change.
 
The city council agreed last night to try to negotiate a deal with Sterling, while at the same time putting out an RFP (Request For Proposals) from anyone else interested in the property. It doesn't have to be a power plant. It could be for a plant that makes hot dogs!!

Either way, time is running out before a summertime decision by MISO that could tip the city council's hand on what to accept or what to reject.
 
What do I think? Well, I spoke with Sterling CFO Jason Sharp both on and off the air last night. He seems to believe strongly that this can be a profiitable venture for his company.

I guess that I am from Missouri and Sterling has to "show me" that its plan is different from the others that came before it that failed, again, for various reasons. All I know is that the patience of the mayor, and the majority of the city council, is wearing thin as this process drags on through yet another quarter.
 
Yes, the city is putting out RFP's for others who may be interested in the plant, and yes, others have whispered theor interest at times to city leaders.
 
But to me, the cold, hard truth appears to be this: the Sterling Energy proposal is the last chance to save that power plant from being closed, torn down, and liquidated.

---later, Jack 

MARINETTE, WI--APRIL 8, 2015-2:11 A.M. CT
A great start of the season for the Escanaba High School baseball team.
 
The boys whipped Marinette, 15-0, Tuesday afternoon, on a cold, windy, albeit sunny, late-afternoon at the Pedersen Ball Park.
 
This is a Marinette team that the Eskymos lost to late last season, so we knew that this was a decent club that we were facing in the season-opener.

Four Eskymo pitchers combined to toss a four-hitter. Sean Bissell had a couple of doubles, including one that brought home three runs. Lewis Ostrander had a nice game, with an RBI hit, two walks, and two strong innings on the mound. All of the boys contributed!

When I got back from the game, Gladstone Baseball Coach Don Lauscher texted me with some bad news. The Braves cannot host Appleton North at Don Olsen Field this Saturday because the field is flooded. Instead, the games will have to be played down in Appleton.
 
This sucks because we finally have a chance to see a great team like the AN Lightning come to play in Gladstone, but Mother Nature didn't cooperate. Note that the games in Appleton will start at 1:00 ET, noon CT. I will go down and broadcast them on AM-600.

---later, Jack

HERMANSVILLE, MI--APRIL 6, 2015-10:19 P.M. CT
Well, vacations are a lot of fun, until they come to an end, that is!

It was so good to spend time with family and friends down in Illinois and Wisconsin last week. Just relaxing and watching TV in the hotel, eating in family restaurants, and watching for bargains in the malls. That, however, I must admit, is more the girls' thing than mine!
 
And then, this past weekend, I went to Minnesota with three Gladstone High School juniors to watch the Detroit Red Wings play the Minnesota Wild. What a "wild" game that was, going past overtime and into eight rounds of a shootout before the Red Wings won (pictured)!

Today (Monday), I was able to celebrate Easter with my parents. That was a perfect cap to my time off. My mom still is the best cook I have ever seen!

Alas, now it is time to go back to work on Tuesday. I'd love to stay away for a few more days, but something tells me that Susie and Don would not sign off on that!! And I thank them for covering me while I got to enjoy some R&R after a very busy March sports season!

---later, Jack

P.S.---Duke 68, Wisconsin 63. I thought Wisconsin had them there at 48-39!

ESCANABA, MI--APRIL 3, 2015--1:09 A.M.
Home. But only briefly!
 
I had a nice time in Chicago and Wisconsin with my girlfriend and my sister. It was a relaxing week. We didn't do too much, other than go to shopping malls, visit family, and hang out and watch TV in the hotel. And a few dips in the pool and whirlpool!

Yep, not exactly a wild Florida or Mexico Spring Break, but certainly fun! Now, I am on the road again. This time, to Minnesota. I'm bringing three teenaged boys from Gladstone to the Detroit Red Wings game against the Minnesota Wild, just like I did last year.

And the kids are looking forward to going to the Mall of America. Am I nuts? Yeah, I guess, but I enjoy spending my vacation time showing others a good time. See you next week!

---later, Jack

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