A lifetime of commitment

Sometimes a player doesn’t have to be a superstar to earn a place in sports history. All it takes is dedication, hard work, a love of the game and a lifelong commitment to sports.

There are few athletes in Alpena history that personify those traits like 2014 Alpena High School Sports Hall of Fame inductee Scott MacKenzie. He may not have been the absolute best player, but his dedication to Alpena sports has few equals.

MacKenzie, an 1975 graduate of Alpena High, earned seven varsity letters in three different sports and won an individual state gymnastics championship in trampoline his senior year.

He also has a 30-plus year career as an Alpena coach and coached four district champion baseball teams.

“Its an honor (to be inducted), truly an honor because I look at the Hall of Fame and a lot of my coaches are on the wall,” MacKenzie said. “There are even a few of my teammates on the wall and my uncle is on the wall.”

MacKenzie was a varsity gymnast for three years and a varsity football and baseball player for two. His specialty sport was trampolining, a sport he took an interest in at a young age.

“I really started (gymnastics) when I was a kid, when the Ludlows had the trampoline pits on State Street,” MacKenzie said. “They discontinued that, but a couple of the trampolines went out to Hamliton Road, to Ray Ludlow’s. As kids, we just played around on the trampolines there, for years.”

MacKenzie’s interest in trampolining became serious when he entered junior high. He competed in the sport for highly successful gymnastic coach Jack Discher starting in seventh grade.

Trampolining involves bouncing in place on a trampoline and performing acrobatic stunts. Players earn points based on the difficulty of their routine and the nuances of their performance.

MacKenzie’s youthful enthusiasm for the trampoline paid off as a junior in 1974 when he picked up a silver medal. Winner Luke Loken of Ann Arbor Huron beat him by only by 0.05 of a point.

Next year, MacKenzie had his revenge when he shared the state title with Loken.

MacKenzie’s competition with Loken was serious and fierce. After all, Loken had been trained by his father, legendary University of Michigan gymnastics coach Newt Loken.

“Luke and I were competitive all through our junior and senior years and he was very, very good,” MacKenzie said.

MacKenzie’s biggest successes may have been gymnastics, but he was an important cog in solid football and baseball teams.

“Football was a family thing. All my brothers played. My uncle played at Michigan State. Football was a given for the family,” he said.

MacKenzie was a wide receiver and punt and kickoff returner. Although not a large player, he was fast and turned into a vital utility receiver who tended to pick up chunks of yards, rather than score touchdowns.

“I came really close (to scoring) a few times, but I never quite made it,” he said, with a laugh. “I was more of a steady, average player.”

Baseball was a natural fit for the athletic MacKenzie. He switched between catcher and third base and contributed his fair share of hits. He and Bernie Lamp were the co-captains of the team their senior year.

MacKenzie played many great baseball games as a Wildcat, but one in particular sticks out in his memory.

“I guess the biggest game that we played in was when Gerry LaMay threw the perfect game back in ’75. That was probably the biggest game I played in, other than districts,” MacKenzie said.

After graduating from Central Michigan University in 1980, MacKenzie came back to Alpena and made his second mark on Alpena sports by becoming a coach in baseball, football and gymnastics.

He was a junior varsity football coach, a junior varsity baseball coach with Mike Cadarette as well as a gymnastics coach with Ray Timm for two years when Black Friday cut the gymnastics program and left MacKenzie out of a job.

MacKenzie spent a year teaching and coaching at Chesterfield High School in Virginia, before coming back to Alpena. He was hired back into the Alpena school system in 1986, working under Cadarette as an assistant coach.

Cadarette retired in 1999 and MacKenzie took over the reigns as head coach. Success came quickly: he won three straight district championships, starting in 1999 and a fourth in 2010.

Even after retiring in 2010, MacKenzie still stays active as a freshmen football coach with Bob Bennett. MacKenzie’s decades as an Alpena coach are a way of giving back to a town that has given him so much.

“Its always a good experience coaching, I’m always a competitive person and want the kids to do well because competition is the nature of the game, the nature of life,” he said. “Don’t sell yourself short. Be competitive with yourself , do the best you can and don’t give up.”

Eric Benac can be reached via email at ebenac@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.