Phil Magsig has overcome health issues to return to the sport he loves
OKEMOS – Baseball has always been a part of Phil Magsig’s life. The former Michigan State baseball player is now 58, and still plays to this day in a 40-and-older city league. He also has coached at Okemos High for the past 24 years, enjoying working and mentoring with young players.
However, in December 2015, the game wasn’t as important. He was diagnosed with a non-cancerous tumor, wrapped around his carotid artery in his head.
“They went in, they cut my scalp, stretched that back, put like a golf ball sized hole in my head and reached in with like a coat hanger or something and they got 80 percent of it,” Magsig said. “…Kind of scary for a minute.”
Magsig has regained his health, and returned to baseball in 2016. He picked up his 450th career win, and the Chieftains won the district title. Now in his 24th season as the leader of Okemos varsity baseball, the team is looking to nab back-to-back district titles.
Magsig’s baseball career started as a pitcher at Dansville High School. He went to MSU, and was part of the 1979 Big Ten championship team. After his playing career ended, Magsig made coaching stops at Haslett and Dansville, before spending five years as an assistant at Okemos, which eventually led to him being named the head coach.
“I’ve always looked up to him. I always came to the varsity baseball games, I’ve always seen how competitive he is,” senior catcher Billy Brehm said. “He extends it. He’s not just a coach that’s all about baseball. He’s always said, ‘Family first, school, then baseball,’ so that’s a big thing a lot of players will take off of it.”
Throughout his career, Magsig has had many mentors, but former Michigan State baseball coach Danny Litwiler taught him valuable life lessons that he carries with him to this day.
“He was the first one that ever taught me don’t kick a sleeping dog,” Magsig said. “Basically, we’d start ripping and roaring if we were up by 10 runs and he’d go, ‘Hey, don’t kick a sleeping dog, it’ll come back and bite you’.”
Throughout his coaching career, Magsig has taken those life lessons and applied them to his team and coaching staff.
“One thing is work hard. Between watching somebody like my dad, that’s what I think of when I think of Phil,” assistant coach and former player Eric Skusa said. “Somebody that works that hard, not only in baseball, but life and his job is a teacher, but also all of the stuff he does outside. He’s one of the hardest workers I know and that’s a huge thing.”
Magsig doesn’t know the future of his coaching career, but he’d like to see the talent of the eighth grade class come through. However, he does know what he wants to do after baseball.
“I’m kind of a handyman in the summer, I remodel basements, put drywall up and a little bit of electrical and a little bit of plumbing. I’ve got two brothers and we get along very well. They’ve got good skills and I’m able to get the jobs and put them to work and then we can talk along the way,” Magsig said. “It’s nice to be able to switch gears. I think that’s the advantage of being a teacher or one of the big advantages of being a teacher is being able to switch gears.”
Although his coaching career isn’t over, Magsig has left his mark on the players, coaching staff and athletic department at Okemos.
“Everything,” Brehm said, when asked what Magsig means to the program. “Everyone respects him. He tells you to do something, you’ll do it. There’s no questions asked. Just the respect that everyone has towards him is unbelievable.”