NORTH MUSKEGON – It seems Troy McManus can ace anything you put in front of him.
McManus graduated days ago from North Muskegon High School with a perfect 4.0 GPA on an unweighted scale. He scored a nearly flawless 1540 on his SAT. He excels at any sport he plays. He’s respected by teachers, coaches and peers.
Norsemen baseball coach Garret Moyer knows how to keep him grounded, however.
“He’s always (asking), ‘Where am I at on the depth chart (for shortstop or catcher), coach?’ And it’s, ‘You’re left-handed, Troy. You can play (only) two positions,’” Moyer quipped.
McManus could play shortstop (he has) or catcher if the Norse needed, but they’re doing just fine with the 6-foot-1, 175-pounder as one of their front-line pitchers, center fielder and leadoff hitter.
North Muskegon (34-5-1), which was ranked No. 5 in the latest Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Division 3 poll, has its sights set on a deep run through the state tournament. On Saturday, the Norsemen edged Kent City, 1-0, in a district semifinal pitcher’s duel before their offense erupted for a 17-5 district finals victory over Montague.
Ultimately, the Norsemen are eyeing a spot in the Michigan High School Athletic Association state finals June 17 at Michigan State University’s McLane Baseball Stadium. With a leader and all-around standout like McManus, surrounded by a talented and deep group of teammates, you can’t dismiss the idea.
With a pair of district victories Saturday, the Norse have extended their winning streak to 20 games. Their last defeat was suffered on April 29, a 5-3 loss to a Bay City John Glenn squad that’s 33-4-1, ranked No. 5 in Division 2 and made it to the state semifinals last season.
In addition to steamrolling to the West Michigan Conference Rivers Division title, North Muskegon has claimed impressive victories over the likes of defending Division 2 state champion Forest Hills Eastern (7-2), Muskegon-area power Mona Shores (12-2 in six innings for the city title), and other Division 1 opponents such as East Kentwood (15-10), Forest Hills Central (3-1) and Reeths-Puffer (6-0).
Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
“Winning’s a lot of fun. I mean, the streak we’ve been on has been nice,” said McManus, 18, the son of Kevin and Tracey McManus. “I think everyone knows their roles pretty well, so that’s nice. We kind of went into the year knowing our roles.
“I think last year we got off to a really hot start and we then almost kind of cooled down, down the stretch. I think we’ve just kind of kept getting better. Our bats didn’t warm up right away, but then it’s kind of been nice to see — we’ve started barreling up a lot of balls.”
McManus helps set the tone for a potent North Muskegon lineup. He’s among the conference leaders in hitting, sporting a .444 batting average (59-of-133) with 14 doubles, two triples and 41 RBIs. The speedy McManus has scored 49 runs and stolen 29 bases, and he sports a .500 on-base percentage.
McManus is clever and very effective on the mound, too. His fastball doesn’t quite reach 80 mph on the radar gun, but he knows how to change speeds and eye levels. McManus is one of the league’s top pitchers with a 10-1 record and 1.34 ERA. He’s struck out 71 and walked 22 in 57 1/3 innings, and he makes up one half of the Norsemen’s strong one-two punch with junior right-hander Ryan Delora.
Moyer said there is a difference between a thrower and a pitcher, and McManus certainly falls into the latter category.
“We always talk about, ‘We’re just trying to get ’em out. You don’t have to strike everybody out,’” Moyer said. “He’s confident, he controls the running game extremely well. Hand-in-hand, right – he’s a smart kid in school and that goes right to the baseball field.
“He has a very high baseball IQ. He knows how to attack certain hitters and certain tendencies that kids may have. He’s detailed. We go over charts, we do a lot of different things that I do with a lot of high-level kids that he has no trouble with at all. … When we talk about pitching, we always talk about velo’s king. He doesn’t throw the hardest or whatever, but he absolutely competes and he knows what he’s trying to do. It’s very fun to coach.”
The competitive piece is apparent with McManus. He strives to be the best at everything he does.
In fact, he has the same approach taking a test such as the SAT as he does staring down a dangerous batting lineup or prepping for a big basketball game.
“A lot of it is on the test day, I feel like I get really locked in. I almost treat it like a sporting event,” McManus said. “I try to get good sleep, get a good breakfast, all of that. It might help that my older brother (Brennen) went through it and he had all the study books (for the SAT).”
North Muskegon senior shortstop Denny Belmonte met McManus way back in their kindergarten days. Belmonte characterizes McManus as a perfectionist, super athletic, sometimes sarcastic and occasionally forgetful – like the times he’s forgotten his cleats as the Norse have boarded the bus for a game.
Belmonte and others said that McManus loves a healthy debate.
“All the time in AP Biology, I’d be sitting in class, it’d be dead silent, and Troy and our AP Biology teacher, Ms. (Deb) Johnson, they would just argue about something – even if it’s about a song she’s playing or like any kind of thing,” Belmonte said. “Even with (coaches), coming up with some beef.
“He’s definitely a perfectionist, you can say that. We’re alike in a lot of ways, but he’s like the goody-goody of the goody-goodies, you know.”
Photos by Laura Moat and CatchMark
McManus considered the University of Michigan, where his older brother attends, to study engineering. Instead, he’s opting for the much smaller Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terra Haute, Ind., where he intends on playing basketball.
McManus was an All-WMC performer in basketball as a three-year varsity player for coach Chuck Rypstra. As a senior, McManus averaged 13.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.1 steals per game. In his junior season, he averaged 14.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.9 steals.
The smooth-shooting southpaw scored 920 career points, shot free throws at a 90-percent clip and cashed in on about 40 percent of his 3-point attempts.
“He was effective driving and shooting 3, but also had the mid-range, which I think set him apart from others,” said Rypstra, whose teams won Division 3 district titles all three of McManus’ varsity seasons. “Supreme confidence in his abilities. Great teammate, hard worker. Can’t say enough good things about him. He carried us at times in his junior year, but this year we had more help.”
In a similar way, McManus has been among a handful of good players on North Muskegon’s baseball team the last two seasons. In 2022, he was voted the CatchMark SportsNet WMC Player of the Year after batting .472 with 49 RBIs, 48 runs scored and 28 stolen bases plus a 6-3 pitching record and 1.64 ERA. He’s also a finalist for CatchMark Player of the Year this spring.
McManus was CatchMark SportsNet WMC Player of the Year for boys tennis in 2021, but he opted not to play his senior year because of a fall-ball opportunity with Diamonds Baseball out of Grand Rapids.
In his limited free time, McManus enjoys kayaking, hiking and generally being outdoors. He’s looking to pursue a career related to the environment, possibly with renewable energy or maybe urban planning.
“El Toro,” as former North Muskegon principal Ken Byard affectionately nicknamed him – it means “the bull” in Spanish – will certainly be going full speed ahead no matter where his future takes him.
“I’m not really your typical, like, good student. I don’t have an agenda book or anything like that. I don’t plan stuff. I stress out a lot – that’s probably it. I kind of think about that stuff all the time,” McManus said. “There’s definitely a better way to go about it and I’m going to have to make some changes for college for sure. I’m passionate about both things (school and sports), so I can kind of just make it work.”
Moyer is savoring his time with McManus, who will be very difficult to replace once his North Muskegon baseball career ends.
“He is a once in probably I don’t know many years talent – just the competitor that he is,” Moyer said. “You’re going to have to somehow replace 50 runs and .450 batting average and 30 stolen bases and that’s not something that just happens.
“For as talented as he is, I don’t think we’re going to have anybody like Troy coming anytime soon, so he’s going to be very hard to replace. As a complete player, he’s extremely coachable. He’ll do anything the coach asks him to do.”
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