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“Let’s Play Two!” Patrick Dignan’s Twenty Years as Ypsi’s Baseball Coach

“Let’s Play Two!” Patrick Dignan’s Twenty Years as Ypsi’s Baseball Coach image “Let’s Play Two!” Patrick Dignan’s Twenty Years as Ypsi’s Baseball Coach image
Phil Barnes
Rights Held By
Ypsilanti Historical Society
OCR Text

Bob Moffett was a genius. Among other things, he hired Patrick Dignan as his head baseball coach in 1970-71 at Ypsilanti High School and that started a string of successes which is unparalleled in Washtenaw County. Bob became the full time Athletic Director that year and he turned the reins of the baseball team over to Patrick. Thus the dynasty began. The team lost one game that year, led by Steve Rhodin and Bob McSpadden. Bob Moffet himself had been an outstanding coach and before that a collegiate player at Michigan State Normal College. He was one of the best fastpitch third basemen ever to play in this area. He led Walker Hardware to a State Double A title by hitting two home runs in the four winning games. Now, however, he turned the Ypsilanti baseball fortunes over to Patrick Dignan who took the team on an unbelievable baseball journey.

As a player, Patrick Dignan was quality all the way. He was All-State in football and basketball at St. Thomas High School. During his senior year the football team went undefeated and unscored upon. Patrick was the star halfback and he continued his career at Eastern Michigan from 1959 to 1963, frequently rushing for over 100 yards per game. Patrick also played baseball in college and started as a centerfielder for Bill Crouch, his baseball coach.

Patrick’s first job was as football, basketball and baseball coach at Memphis High School in Michigan. He also drove school bus and received $3,700 per year for his toils in 1963-64. Ypsilanti was his next stop, as Dr. Paul Emrick hired him the next year to be the assistant football, baseball and junior high basketball coach. After his stint with Moffett in baseball as an assistant he was selected to be the Head Baseball Coach in 1970-71. This was a brilliant move by Moffett.

Ypsilanti won the Michigan State Championshio in 1986 beating Brother Rice six to five in the thrilling final game. Leading the way were Todd Kendricks, Eric Pederson, Matt Oestrike, John Noe, and John Terris.

Dignan faced many great coaches in his day. Among the best he named were Tom Noland for Lincoln Park; Jim Chronowski from Wayne Memorial; Bob Wright from Jackson; Frank Corej from Catholic Central; and Bob Topp from Kalamazoo Central. Other outstanding coaches in Washtenaw County were Wayne Welter from Chelsea; Ron Mercier from Milan; Rip Kinney from Ann Arbor; and Steve Robb from Milan.

Patrick named his all time best team from Ypsilanti. There were many top players in his program over the years, some of whom were drafted and played professional baseball. The first basemen were: Jim Horton, Steve Rhoden, Rob Sepanek, Jim Luckhardt and Pat Zurich. Middle infielders were: Bob McSpadden, Todd Irwin, Chuck Coker, Greg White, Ron Palmer, John Noe, Greg White, Steve Kinney and Matt Oestrike. Third baseman were: Eric Pederson and Dave Rukkilla. Outfielders were: Jeff Washington, John Terris, Phil Campbell (who arguably is the best home run hitter with 35), John Dignan (who led the team in batting average and home runs for three years), Todd Hendricks, Ken Robinson (who went on to Michigan State and had an outstanding career). Catchers were: Aaron Metaj, Jim Nowling, Russ Kincaid and Jim Sepanek. Pitchers were: Horton, Rhodin, Hendricks, Noe, Irwin (who also played for MSU), Mark Denise, Bob Smith, Mark Jeppesen and Kevin Bara.

Dignan’s all time opponent team is as follows: Pat Sheridan, Don Johnson, Jim Canfield and Bill Crews from Wayne; Bill Ashley from Belleville; Bob Korecky from Saline; Ted Grignon and Mike Betz from Edsel Ford; Tom Willette from Plymouth; and roger Cole from Milan. All were drafted to play professional baseball.

Patrick had been recruited by Pin Ryan, legendary Coach then Athletic Director at Oakland Community College, to be the Head Baseball Coach prior to his accepting the Ypsi head job. Three years experience gave him the credentials to be hired by EMU as Assistant to Roger Coryell in 1991. A retirement from teaching and a move to Falls Church, Virginia took him out of coaching for a while, but upon the family’s return he began a series of coaching vendettas which simply added up to helping others. When called upon he would accept a position of need in the area. Currently he is assisting an old friend, Brad Bush, a great Ypsi athlete, in football at Chelsea. Patrick always gave of himself to help any of his former athletics or coaches.

Patrick and his wife Patricia reside in Ypsilanti and have raised two children, Cassandra and John and have fire grandchildren.

(Phil Barnes was born in Detroit and received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from EMU. He taught in the Ypsilanti schools from 1959 to 1963 and then served as an administrator in the Milan Public Schools from 1964 to 1994.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Patrick Dignan – the high school years.
Photo 2: Patrick Dignan played halfback for Eastern Michigan University in 1963.
Photo 3: Pat and Patricia with son John.
Photo 4: Pat with daughter Cassandra.
Photo 5: Assistant Coaches Joe McDermott and John Williams and Head Coach Patrick Dignan.
Photo 6: Patrick Dignan.