After over a decade of NAIA coaching, Madonna Head Coach Greg Haeger continues to define Crusader Baseball. His brilliant mind for the game and focus on the development of student-athletes continues to establish Madonna University as one of the most elite collegiate baseball programs in the country and one that consistently vies for conference and national titles each year.
Haeger, 40, enters his 14th year as Crusader head coach amidst a string of accomplishments that have undoubtedly been a direct reflection of his coaching style. The 2009 edition of the Crusaders made program history last season, becoming the first ever Madonna University baseball team to advance to the NAIA National Tournament. The '09 squad also earned the program its highest ever national ranking, peaking at No. 8 in the coaches' poll on April 7.
The Crusaders set the school record for winning percentage (.765) en route to winning the program's fourth Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference title in the last five seasons by posting a 39-12 overall record, and earned Haeger his fourth WHAC Coach of the Year honor in the same time frame.
He has now coached three conference Players of the Year in Kevin Zerbo (2008), Ben Ramsey (2006) and Joe Greene (2005); along with a trio of Conference Pitchers of the Year in Jeff Sonnenberg (2009), Will Kennedy (2008) and Derek Dufrane (2005); and has had three players in the last five years (Ramsey in 2006 and Dufrane in 2005 and John McCracken in 2008) earn NAIA All-America honors with first, second and honorable mention team selections, respectively.
Personally Haeger has been honored as the WHAC Coach of the Year four times (2005, '06, '08, '09), NAIA Region Coach of the Year three times (2005, '06, 09) and NAIA Great Lakes Section Coach of the Year once (1998).
Haeger is the architect behind one of the nation's top pitching staffs as the Crusader arms carried the team to their third straight 30-win season in 2009 and their sixth straight post season appearance. The Crusader hurlers posted a league best 4.26 earned run average and allowed opponents to hit at just a .278 clip. Madonna led the WHAC in complete games with 20, and the staff's earned run average ranked it 23rd nationally.
Since taking over for Mike George on June 24, 1996, after a pair of seasons as George's pitching coach, Haeger has led the Crusaders to a 387-294-5 overall record. In recent years his teams have been a constant contender in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference and have gained national attention with their top-25 rankings.
The longest tenured coach in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference enters the 2010 season ready for the challenges that await his ball club. No longer do the Crusaders have the luxury of sneaking up on opponents as they have in recent years. After a 2005 season that saw the team start the year with a pair of wins at No. 7 ranked Spalding University and go undefeated (11-0) on the spring trip to Florida, coupled with 2006's near berth in the World Series and last season's upset of No. 13-ranked Fresno Pacific in the National Tournament, the word is now out that Madonna is a force to be reckoned with nationally.
Adding to the buzz surrounding the past six seasons was the inaugural game at what is now Ilitch Ballpark on March 27, 2004. Formerly known as Madonna University Ballpark, the new $1 million home of Madonna baseball features a major league playing surface, full infield and outfield drainage, major league-sized dugouts and most importantly, an on-campus home for the team. In October 2005, a generous contribution from Detroit Tigers and Red Wings owners and Little Caesar's Pizza founders, Mike and Marian Ilitch, led to the unveiling of the field's major league-sized scoreboard bearing the new name beyond the left field fence.
"That game was a special day for our program and one that I will always look back upon with fond memories," stated Haeger. "The University and Athletic Department really made it a special day with all the fanfare, first pitch, national anthem, you name it...it was great for our kids."
On the field, Haeger places a strong emphasis on teaching the game of baseball. Whether working as a team or through individual instruction, he has constantly worked to improve fundamentals. In addition, he preaches an aggressive style of play, as the Crusaders' stolen base numbers demonstrate. His work with the Madonna pitching staff is undeniably a major reason for the team's success in recent years. Last season alone, MU pitchers led the conference in numerous statistical categories and were among the nation's leaders in ERA and strikeouts.
After an outstanding high school career at Detroit Catholic Central, Haeger was named Michigan Amateur player of the year, and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers following his senior season. Haeger put his professional dreams on hold to accept a baseball scholarship and pursue his education at the University of Michigan. Haeger enjoyed a tremendous career at Michigan, earning All- Big Ten Conference honors in both 1998 and 1989. He led the Wolverines with eight game winning RBIs as a sophomore when he batted .292 with five home runs. He tied for third on the team with 38 RBIs as a sophomore. A career .290 hitter, Haeger spent the majority of his time as a first baseman for the Maize and Blue.
In 1990, Haeger was again drafted by the Tigers and opted to turn pro following his junior season. While with the Tigers, Haeger moved up through the farm system, earning All-Star honors in 1991 and playing on the Florida State League Champion Lakeland Tigers in 1992. Unfortunately, a knee injury ended his professional career. Following the injury, Haeger returned to Michigan to continue his education in 1994. He later joined the Madonna staff as an assistant. His impact on the pitching staff was immediately noticeable as the team's ERA finished in the top 15 of the NAIA in two of his three seasons as pitching coach. In addition, he was part of Madonna's first sectional championship team in 1995.
In addition to his duties in the dugout, Haeger is responsible for maintenance and upkeep of Ilitch Ballpark as well as University Field and assists the Athletic Department with game management duties at MU sporting events.
Off the field, Haeger and his wife Jean reside in New Hudson with their sons Gregory III [Trey] and Evan.
In his sixth season with the Crusaders, and 30th season coaching overall, Associate Head Coach Stu Rose will again work with the MU infielders and serve as hitting coach for the 2010 campaign.
Rose will also reprise his role as third base coach, running the offense. He is also a key evaluator of talent in the recruiting process.
Rose is no stranger to collegiate coaching having served most recently as an assistant coach at the University of Detroit under former MU assistant Chris Czarnik during the 2004 season.
Prior to his time with the Titans, Rose was the head coach at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., where he became one of the most respected junior college coaches in the area and in the country. Rose left HFCC as the most successful coach in school history, amassing 435 wins and eight league championships. Rose also led his team to a pair of state and regional titles and a National Championship runner-up finish in 1994. For his efforts that season, Rose was named the National Tournament Coach of the Year.
Rose joined HFCC after eight years as the head coach at Redford Union (Mich.) high school, where he posted 147 wins. Rose has coached more than 140 student-athletes who have either gone on to play baseball at four-year institutions, or professionally.
Heavily involved in amateur athletics, Rose has served as the league director for the Livonia Adray Collegiate Baseball League and the Redford and Livonia Connie Mack programs. He is credited with starting the first ever large scale fall baseball program in Michigan. Rose has coached summer baseball teams in the state for 26 years, amassing more than 900 total victories over that span. All tolled, Rose has tallied over 1, 500 career baseball wins as a head coach at all his stops.
In addition to his role at Madonna, Rose is the Director of Total Baseball - the winter home of the Crusaders - which is part of the Total Sports Complex in Wixom.
Rose has been married to his wife Jean for 30 years and the couple has three children: Erica, Joyce and John.
Ted Falkner begins his third season as an assistant coach at Madonna working as the first base coach, assistant hitting coach and outfield instructor.
Falkner came to Madonna from Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he spent three seasons as an assistant coach. Falkner joined the Cardinals staff after three seasons as a standout player for the Cardinals.
After beginning as a shortstop for the Cards, Falkner moved over to third base and became one of the conference's best players in his final two seasons.
As a player, Falkner was twice named all-conference by the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference coaches as a third baseman.
In 2002, Falkner was named a member of the NCCAA All-Midwest team and was voted by his teammates as the Cardinals' Most Valuable Player.
In addition to his on-field duties as the third base coach with the Cardinals, Falkner was responsible for working with Concordia hitters and overseeing the infielders.
Falkner is no stranger to coaching, having also served as an assistant coach for his alma mater, Milford High School, and for the Michigan Monarchs summer baseball team. In addition to his coaching duties Falkner has worked as a hitting instructor at the Midwest Baseball Academy in the winter months.
This coming summer Falkner will head to Canada to be an assistant coach with the Thunder Bay Border Cats in the prestigious Northwoods Collegiate Baseball League.
Falkner graduated from Concordia University majoring in social studies with a minor in history as part of the school's secondary education program.
Falkner is engaged to Katie Ward and the couple is set to be wed this coming August.
Mike George returns for his 12th season overall and his fourth as an assistant coach in 2010. George will work with the catchers and oversee the team's base running.
After coaching baseball at Bishop Borgess High School, George started the Madonna University baseball program from scratch in 1989 and was the head coach through the 1996 season.
In his eight years at the helm of the Crusaders, George won 251 games while leading Madonna to the post season in 1993, '94, 95 and '96. The Crusaders captured the Great Lakes Sectional title in both 1993 and 1995.
Heavily involved in the Livonia community, George sponsors numerous youth sports teams and is the owner and operator of both Coach's Corner Bar and Grill of Livonia, and George Murphy's at the Creek.