Pat O’Keefe’s coaching career has been full of significant accomplishments.
The veteran Grand Ledge baseball coach reached another one Monday.
O’Keefe picked up his 1,200th career victory during a CAAC Blue doubleheader sweep of Eastern, becoming the first coach in state history to reach that mark.
“Nobody thinks that you’re going to get that far, and you’re going to coach (that long),” said O’Keefe, who began his coaching career in 1968 and is in his 48th season leading the Comets.
“I don’t think the legendary Paul Cook thought he was going to coach for 45-50 years. In your mindset, nobody thinks they’re going to go that long. It’s been a great career. I’ve really appreciated all the support and everything that the people in Grand Ledge and obviously my family (have given me). And most of all the good Lord has blessed me to be in a community and have a family that’s supported me through all these years and everything.”
The decorated coaching career for O’Keefe, who has 1,201 victories, has included guiding Grand Ledge to a pair of Division 1/Class A state titles, two state runner-up finishes and 23 Diamond Classic titles. O’Keefe, who was inducted into the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame last August, remains just ahead of Blissfield’s Larry Tuttle on the state’s all-time coaching wins list.
Tuttle entered the week with 1,197 wins after leading Blissfield to a doubleheader sweep of Jonesville on Friday. O’Keefe and Tuttle are among three baseball coaches in state history with more than 1,000 wins according to the MHSAA record book.
“It’s certainly been a labor of love, but I haven’t done it by myself,” said O’Keefe, while referencing the help he’s had from longtime assistants Lynn VanDerSteen and Mike Rademacher.
As significant as the latest milestone victory is for O’Keefe, he’s more concerned about his team and the opportunity it has to put together another strong season. Grand Ledge is 11-1 after its sweep of Eastern and is one of mid-Michigan’s most experienced squads with 14 returners from last spring.
“We were looking forward to the season with having 14 different kids that started last year coming back,” O’Keefe said. “That certainly has helped us to get off to a good start. We’ll see how the season plays out, but it’s always an exciting thing. I’ve always said I coach for the kids and because of the parents. It’s been something that I’ve been fortunate to be in a community that is such a sports-oriented town like Grand Ledge is.”