Tomorrow marks opening day for United Shore Professional Baseball League season

DSC_0194United Shore Professional Baseball League (USPBL), metro Detroit’s first independent professional baseball league, will open its second season at 7:05 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, May 11, at Jimmy John’s Field in downtown Utica. The Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers will face the hometown favorite, and reigning champion, Utica Unicorns. Games will be played every Thursday through Sunday until Sept. 10, 2017.

New team
Fans can expect an array of new and exciting sights, sounds and scents in 2017. For starters, the league has added a fourth team to the roster. The Westside WoollyIMG_4223 Mammoths will battle it out with the Utica Unicorns, Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers and Eastside Diamond Hoppers for this year’s pennant.

New ballpark features
The league is adding new outdoor bars to its three picnic patio areas (Right Field Patio, Left Field Patio and Chevrolet Pavilion). The full-service bars will feature fountain soda, draft beer, and TVs to catch all the latest scores. The league also is adding a new stage beyond the right centerfield wall to showcase the many bands that play at the ballpark throughout the season.

New food
The league has hired new executive head chef Joseph Johnson – most recently from The Inn at Stonecliffe on Mackinac Island and The Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth. Joining him is David Parker, the league’s new director of food and beverage, who brings considerable experience via the Montgomery Biscuits (AA affiliate team of the Tampa Bay Ray’s), Lansing Lugnuts and The Great Lakes Loons. Also new to the food and beverage staff is Nathan Liska, assistant director of food and beverage. Liska was formerly a chef at Andiamo restaurant and the Tiger Den in Comerica Park.

The new staff has made significant changes to the type and quality of food that will be served at Jimmy John’s Field during the 2017 season. Fans can expect a lot more cooked-to-order foods made with fresh ingredients—the league is even planting its own herb garden to use in its recipes. The USPBL also hired a barbecue pitmaster and will be serving fresh, smoked-on-site barbecue favorites such as pulled pork, wings, ribs and chicken. Fans will also be able to enjoy such wide-varying fare as: Philly cheese steak nachos, foot-long hot dogs and sausages, garlic fries and more. Additionally, fans will be able to enjoy Chick-fil-A on Thursday nights and

Lou & Harry’s, an East Lansing institution, on Friday nights.

Night photo of JJF

New promotions
The USPBL is all about affordable family fun and has lined up an exciting season of promotional game days and nights, including:

  • The Human Cannon Ball
  • World-famous Team Ghost Riders (the cowboy monkeys who performed at the inaugural Opening Day in 2016)
  • Helicopter candy drops for kids
  • The Zooperstars
  • America’s Got Talent’s Quick Change
  • Jake the Diamond Dog
  • Jimmy Buffett Night
  • Star Wars Night
  • Peanut-Free Night
  • Family Campout Night
  • WCSX Classic Rock Saturdays
  • WYCD Country Music Nights
  • Heritage Nights to honor the German, Greek, Irish, Italian and Polish communities
  • Bobblehead, hat and T-shirt giveaways
  • Firework spectaculars every Friday night
  • Kids run the bases after every game.

A complete list of promotions and dates can be found at

Tickets are affordably priced and start at just $12 in the grandstand and $6 for lawn. Tickets can be purchased at the box office at Jimmy John’s Field or online at Parking is free.

Dana Schmitt is chief operating officer for the USPBL.

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How to donate to stop local hunger

Macomb Food Program pic 1Last year, the National Association of Letter Carriers collected a record 80 million pounds of nonperishable food in its annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. This raised the total amount of donations picked up since the food drive first started in 1993 to 1.5 billion pounds.

I mean, wow. Each year I participate in this food drive, I am overwhelmed by the generosity I see.

However, even though those numbers are impressive, the sad fact is, hunger in America is an acute problem. Did you know that nearly 49 million Americans—one in six —are unsure where their next meal is coming from? This includes 13 million children as well as about 5 million seniors over age 60—many of whom live on fixed incomes and often are too embarrassed to ask for help.

Macomb Food Program pic 2For me, those numbers make me think about Macomb County and how hunger impacts us locally. So, this year, when you consider participating in the food drive on May 13, don’t just pick the old food from your cupboard; consider what you are donating is going to the child going hungry at school or the senior with medical issues who requires a special diet but cannot afford it. Let’s simply add a few extras to our shopping list before the food drive and give food that we would feed to our own families!

Here are some tips for supporting this year’s food drive:

  • Do not donate food you would not eat or is expired.
  • Never donate perishable food items.Macomb Food Program pic 3
  • Refrain from donating glass jar items as they usually break in transport.
  • Consider high protein items such as peanut butter, canned chicken, tuna and canned stews.
  • Add a few low-sodium options to your donation or other foods that meet special dietary needs.
  • Lastly, if you still find it challenging, you can also donate money. That allows food pantries and food banks to purchase perishable lunch meat, chicken and beef products that are not donated.

You can find out more information on this event at For those of you who contribute every year, or who are planning to this year, I want to say thank you! You are truly impacting a child, senior or family that may otherwise go without!

Linda Azar is division director for Children and Family Services. The mission of the Macomb Food Program is to provide food to hungry people in Macomb County. Feeding the hungry since 1975, the Macomb Food Program provides immediate relief to those in need of emergency food through a network of more than 50 pantries and hunger relief organizations. Food gathered locally from the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is donated directly to the Macomb Food Program for local distribution.

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Join me in helping our hungry – donate to the Macomb Food Program

Stamp Out HungerEvery day, hundreds of hard-working families struggle to put food on the table throughout Macomb County. It breaks my heart to hear those stories, but there are a couple things we can do to help prevent this problem.

First, mark your calendar to participate on Saturday, May 13, in the National Association of Letter Carriers’ (NALC) 25th annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. On this day, residents are encouraged to stuff a bag full of nonperishable food (please make sure it’s food you and your family would also eat) and leave it out on their porch. That’s when our friends at the United States Postal Service and a league of volunteers step into action collecting food.

If that doesn’t work for you, we have another option. In Macomb County, we decided to get even more involved in the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive.

This year, I am proud to invite you to join me and others at Hotcakes for Hunger, our pre-Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive rally from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 7 at Freedom Hill County Park.

Hotcakes for Hunger will feature:

  • Pancake breakfast – with celebrity flippers – for $5. All proceeds from the breakfast will go directly to the Macomb Food Program.
  • Classic car show and parade.
  • Bounce houses for children.
  • Emergency vehicles on display from area first responders, including the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, Sterling Heights Fire Department and others.
  • Music performed by local jazz and marching bands.
  • And other fun surprises.

I’m really looking forward to this event, and I know it’s going to be a huge success. Cash donations are used to purchase supplemental fresh foods for the Macomb Food Program’s pantry distribution days.

I would like to thank our sponsors. Anderson Eckstein Westrick, Beaumont Health System, Chris Cakes of Michigan, Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals, Jarvis, McLaren Macomb Health Systems, Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace, Randazzo Mechanical Heating & Cooling, St. John Providence, Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce, The Webber Group and Waste Management are all local companies that have decided to donate to this amazing cause, and I am so appreciative. Because of their support, all donations will go directly to the Macomb Food Program.

Please join me in helping to alleviate the hunger of those in Macomb County. Together we can all make a difference.

Mark A. Hackel is the Macomb County Executive.

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Summer sport camps bring skills, sweat to Macomb County

This blog is the second in a series exploring local day camps available in Macomb County this summer. For a complete listing, visit our newest resource: Day Camp Fun in Macomb.


Leave the video games behind and jump into summer with Macomb Community College’s Summer Sports Camps 2017. Stretch your legs and sharpen your skills in basketball or volleyball on Macomb’s championship courts.

Students entering fifth through eighth grade can improve their basic volleyball skills during the Middle School Volleyball Camp. This camp focuses on fundamental skill development, teaching the students serving, setting and attacking with individual and team contests and tournament play.

High school students have two camps to choose from. The High School Volleyball Camp focuses on technique and skill development and will help participants improve their skills to the varsity level with instruction in attacking, serve receive and defense, ball control and more. Students must be in grades nine through 12.

If your student is interested in developing individual positioning, Macomb’s Position Camp is for them. Students eighth through 12th grade will learn attacking, setting and other crucial skills.

ServeAll three volleyball camps run from July 24-27. For more information, contact Camp Director and Macomb Volleyball Head Coach Irick Gardner at (248) 318.6571 or by email at You can also download the volleyball camps brochure here.

If basketball is more your thing, Macomb hasn’t forgotten about you. The Macomb Metro D Basketball Camp offers separate boys and girls camps in three divisions: Big Ten Division, ages 8-11; College Division, ages 12-13; and the NBA Division, ages 14-17. Each camp includes a combination of individual skill training and competitive team games with numerous awards, contests and tournaments. The Big Ten Division focuses on basic offensive and defensive skills learned through drills and game environments. The emphasis is on learning enjoyment of the sport and knowledge of the game. In the College Division camp, team concepts are introduced. In the NBA Division, fast-paced motion with highly-skilled and competitive station drills focuses on total-team offensive and defensive play. Techniques learned can immediately increase each player’s game effectiveness. The camps run July 10-14.

For more information on the basketball camps, contact Jay Ritchie at (586) 206-4110 or email him at Download the basketball camp brochure here.

All of the coaches for both the volleyball and basketball camps are hand-picked by Macomb College staff and include many of the area’s finest college and high school experts. The coaches pride themselves on being able to provide each camper with individual attention as they focus on skill enhancement, game strategies and team building.

To register for these camps, contact Records and Registration at (586) 445-7999 or by email at

Sean M. Patrick is the manager of media relations at Macomb Community College.

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Macomb County keeps getting greener

SCS students 2015Today, Green Macomb held a special tree planting at Freedom Hill County Park in honor of Arbor Day. Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel and other officials gave remarks, followed by the planting of a cherry tree that was donated by Washington Township-based United Landscape Inc. The tree planting kicked off the first-ever Spring Tree, Shrub and Plant Sale held by Green Macomb in partnership with the Sanilac/St. Clair Conservation District and Michigan State University Extension.

Young bare-root trees, fruit trees, flowering shrubs, native pollinator wildflower seeds, fruits and vegetables are available for purchase at Freedom Hill today until 4 p.m. and tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. while supplies last. Master Gardeners will be on hand to offer planting advice, and soil kits will also be on sale.

Across the county, communities are hosting their own Arbor Day events.

At 1 p.m., the St. Clair Shores Department of Public Works will assist three second-grade classes and the student council in planting four trees at Masonic Heights Elementary School. The school will be presented a proclamation for Arbor Day as well as an Arbor SCS tree city signDay flag. The students have been reading about the importance of trees all week and will get a chance to get their hands dirty, shoveling topsoil and mulch.

At 2 p.m., Shelby Township Parks, Recreation and Maintenance will host a tree planting at Mae Stecker Park with the Shelby Township Gardeners Club and Beautification Committee.

Sterling Heights held a tree planting April 18 to commemorate their 32nd Tree City USA designation. The Beautification Commission, City Council and mayor planted a tree at City Hall, which was followed by a presentation of the Tree City flag.

Additionally, Chesterfield Township, Fraser, Mount Clemens, Roseville, St. Clair Shores and the Village of Grosse Pointe Shores are also recognized as Tree City USA communities. In receiving this designation, the communities have demonstrated their commitment to quality tree care and sustainable urban forestry management, as certified by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Macomb County, local communities and schools are doing their part to make Macomb County a greener place. How will you celebrate Arbor Day today?

Caitlin Gerds-Habermas works for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development, often providing content for the Make Macomb Your Home website.

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How does your garden grow? (and where to get answers to other gardening questions)

Arbor-Day-plant-sale-flyerMacomb County is excited to announce the Spring 2017 Tree, Shrub and Plant Sale this weekend, a new collaboration between Green Macomb and the Sanilac/St. Clair Conservation District. The spring sale provides an opportunity for the public to purchase young trees, fruit trees, flowering shrubs, wildflower seed and other fruits and vegetables at the most reasonable prices you can find.

This is exciting, but what if you’re a gardening newbie?! Or even if you are well seasoned, you might still have questions. But not to worry. Did you know Michigan State University Extension has the information available to help you via its Garden Hotline?

To give you an idea, the top 10 questions from the Gardening Hotline in 2016 were:

  1. How do I get a soil test done, and what will it tell me?
  2. What’s wrong with my lawn?
  3. My maple tree has a problem, can you tell me what to do?
  4. How do I get rid of bees/wasps in my yard?
  5. What do I do to control Japanese beetles?
  6. When can I prune my oak tree?
  7. What’s the problem with my spruce tree?
  8. When do I prune my roses?
  9. How do I care for an apple tree?
  10. How do I get rid of fungus gnats in my house plants?

Master Gardeners are at the MSUE office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to help answer questions and take hotline calls. The number is (888) MSUE-4MI or (888) 678-3464.

Other locations you can find Master Gardeners:

  • Spring 2017 Tree, Shrub and Plant Sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, April 28 and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 29 at Freedom Hill County Park.
  • Master Gardeners have an information booth at the Mount Clemens Farmers Market every Saturday the market is open (May – November).
  • June 3 from 9 a.m. to noon is the Annual Plant Exchange at the VerKuilen Building. Master Gardeners are there to answer questions. (Everyone is welcome, they don’t have to have a plant to exchange)
  • July 14 – 16 there will be a Master Gardener booth at the Lavender Festival held at Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill.

    Mary Gerstenberger is a consumer horticulture coordinator for Macomb County’s Michigan State University Extension.

Gardening blog

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Summer Career Academies invite students to think about future

This blog is the first in a series exploring local day camps available in Macomb County this summer. For a complete listing, visit our newest resource: Day Camp Fun in Macomb.


Area high school students can get a glimpse into their future this summer during Macomb Community College’s Career Academies. Each session features fun, hands-on activities guided by experts in the field. They are a great opportunity to get an insider’s look into a career and whether the field is right for them before they commit to future education.

For example, those interested in public service may find the Law Enforcement, Fire and EMS Academy piques their interest. Taught by current and retired officers, students get an in-depth look at the daily demands of the professions including instruction in self-defense.

In the Culinary/Pastry Arts Academy, it isn’t about hot dogs and hamburgers. Working with master chefs, participants learn the secrets of making gourmet meals. One of the best parts is they get to eat them too.

Students won’t be playing games but inventing them in the IT Gaming Academy, with each participant designing their own game. They’ll get a sense of the type of creative and technical skills required and how those skills can apply in other areas.

Other academies include Hybrid Electric Vehicles, Veterinary Technician, Media and Communication Arts, Robotics, Computer Programming, Biotechnology, Writing for the Future and Experience Apprenticeship.


Students who attend either the Law Enforcement or the Veterinary Technician academies are eligible for college credit for their work. Early registration is encouraged. The minimum age to participate is 14, except for the Public Service Academy, which has a minimum age of 16.

By the end of each academy, students will not only have had fun, but will also have a better understanding of a career field. Even if they decide a particular career is not for them, they will have made an informed choice about their future. For more information about Macomb’s Career Academies, call (586) 498-4008 or download the brochure here.

 Sean M. Patrick is the manager of media relations at Macomb Community College.

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