PINCONNING, MI – That Tommy Yanoski is “freakishly good” at volleyball stuns no one in the neighborhood.
That the Pinconning High School football, basketball and baseball star has a future as a fast-pitch softball ace is nothing shocking.
And the fact that he spent more days than he would admit that he wore a dress and heels and went by the name Sara – wait, what? Even that surprises few in his community.
Such is the life of the boy who grew up as the “little brother” of the Yanoski sisters.
Following in the footsteps of Gabby, Emily and Maddy Yanoski – three super-athletic, ultra-competitive sisters who have been prominent on the Pinconning sports scene – young Tommy learned the power of girl power early on.
“We’re all pretty competitive, and in a way he was probably extra competitive because he thought, ‘I’m a boy, and I’ll show you,’ said Elder Sister Gabby. ‘But we had not thought of him – it did. we never. “
When Tommy competes in the sixth annual North vs. South All-Star Game at Midlands Dow Diamond on Thursday, July 1, he ends a sensational prep career for the Pinconning Spartans. Yanoski appeared as a heavily charged quarterback on the football team, a high-scoring guard on the basketball team and a heater thrower on the baseball team while earning nine college letters.
And it was sibling-driven inspiration that helped make him the athlete he is. The fact that all his siblings are women added only a few twists.
“When I was younger – and I can not believe I say this – they dressed me and called me Sara,” said Tommy. “I do not know why, but I was always Sara.”
But Tommy claims that this is about the only “girly” thing the girls in his life have ever done. From the time he was old enough to run around the family home in Pinconning Township with his sisters – who were ages 5, 4 and 2 when he was born – he recognized them as a fun but tough bunch.
As it turns out, it will give great benefits in the development as an athlete.
“I wanted to come home every day from work, and they wanted to do something in the garden, whether it was basketball, volleyball or pitch-and-catch. And it did not clear things up, they were tough and competitive, “said Fred Yanoski, who together with his wife Pam raised their four children to be active in each other’s lives. “I’m sure all of this had a profound effect on Tommy’s development of various skills.
“I went into the garden one day and Emily runs out and says’ Dad, look at this! “And here comes Tommy – before he was 3 – cycling without training wheels. I got a floor. It looked freaky, almost like animation because it was so out of place. This little, little kid driving around on two wheels.
“I do not know how many times the child fell during the day, but that was what they worked on that day. As the only boy, he was a kind of pet project. ”
The sisters were well qualified to lead the way for little brother. All three were prominent athletes for Pinconning, some played volleyball, some played basketball and all played the softball diamond.
For six consecutive years from 2014-19, there was a Yanoski on the MLive Bay City Softball Dream Team, with Gabby receiving the honor in 2014 and 2015, Emily in 2016 and 2017 and Maddy in 2018 and 2019.
Their father served as athletic leader and trainer at St. Michael’s Elementary School in Pinconning, giving all four children good access to the gymnasium and other facilities. And with four active children, the Yanoski family was constantly on the move.
“My wife and I sat down and found out one day, we had 57 days in a row with at least one game,” Fred said.
And wherever the girls went, Tommy was sure to follow.
“I was at every single one of their games, at home, away, even traveling … I went to everything,” Tommy said. “It got really boring at times, I’m not going to lie. I was the little boy who chased every foul ball. ”
Along the way, he was educated in his sisters’ sports as well as his own. He developed into an excellent softball pitcher for fast pitch just after working with Gabby, Emily and Maddy on the St. John’s Church ball field behind their house. He also became proficient in volleyball, through hours of bumping and setting with Maddy most days.
“Maddy wanted to nail a volleyball as hard as she could, and I would be terrified of that,” he said.
But the sisters also wanted to play football games in the backyard and wanted to play catcher when Tommy honed his pitching skills. Tommy was their biggest fan growing up, and they repaid favor when he took the field.
“We’m probably closer to siblings,” Gabby said. “I have many friends who do not have siblings, but they probably want to do it. It’s nice to have siblings to share things with, whether it’s playing sports or talking about it at the dinner table. We were blessed to grow up that way. ”
Tommy said he knew he had a name to live up to during his days in Pinconning. He did not disappoint, he debuted as a beginner in basketball and baseball and was a starting quarterback in football for two seasons. He earned MLive Bay City Dream Team recognition seven times during the three sports.
He finished in style and delivered a sparkling season on the baseball diamond as he led the Spartans to the Jack Pine Conference Championship in his first season in the league.
“Being our first year in the league, we knew nothing about anyone,” Tommy said. “When I went into it, it was a little nerve-wracking. But we proved we were there to play. ”
Yanoski was rock solid ahead of the pitching rotation, took on each team’s best pitcher and emerged victorious in one pitch duel after another. When the dust settled, the hard-throwing right-hander held an 8-1 record with a 1.14 ERA, hitting 97 in 55.1 innings.
While he expects his days in organized sports to be over – apart from the fast-pitch softball and intramural volleyball that may await him – the Pinconning-class salutatorian plans to continue his education at Saginaw Valley State University. He said he is considering a career as a medical assistant.
No matter where the journey goes, he is sure he will have three sisters in his corner. For as long as he can remember, they have been there to steer the course – usually in a promising direction.
“Older sisters were older sisters, they always liked to make fun of me. They wanted to do something they were good at, and I obviously was not, and teased myself for it, “he said.
“But they are a very good support group. Family is everything here and I’m happy to have them with me. ”