Adams' Multi-Sport Gem Picot Providing Robust Reminder of Value on Diamond

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

May 11, 2023

ROCHESTER HILLS – In a way, it’s ironic for anyone watching Rochester Adams senior Parker Picot thriving and excelling at his best sport right now during the spring.

Greater DetroitThe small twist of irony is that a few months ago during the fall, some felt the same thing while he was playing a different sport.

For any observers of high school sports who follow football and not much else, they likely know all about Picot and how much of an all-around force he was for Adams on the gridiron. He was a lockdown defensive back and a dual-threat quarterback who did just about everything for a Highlanders team that advanced to the Division 1 championship game in 2021 and a Regional Final this past November.

People probably watched and wondered where his future in college football would take him, and for good reason given Central Michigan and University of Massachusetts headlined programs that offered him football scholarships.

But if those same observers are wondering why Picot isn’t going to play college football, all they have to do is watch him play baseball for Adams this spring.

If they do, it’s likely a collective “Oh” would be coming out of their mouths.

No doubt, as good as Picot was at football, he is even better at baseball, and will rightfully pursue that sport going forward after signing with Alabama in November.

“I’ve always loved football,” Picot said. “But I enjoy baseball more.”

Entering a Tuesday game against fellow Oakland County power Lake Orion, Picot owned the career school records for home runs (19) and stolen bases (57).

Playing in a tough league and against a formidable nonconference schedule, Picot was batting .339 with six home runs, 23 RBI and 10 stolen bases this spring hitting primarily out of the No. 2 spot in the Adams lineup.

Picot looks to his third-base coach for signs while at the plate.Also a hard-throwing ace pitcher, Picot was 4-0 and had allowed four earned runs in 19 innings pitched going into Tuesday.

“He’s pretty good at everything,” Adams head coach Jeff Hall said. “He’s solid all the way around. He’s a great center fielder and one of the fastest kids in the country. I think in Chicago, he ran some ridiculous 60-yard dash.”

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that there could be something even greater ahead for Picot in baseball that has nothing to do with college.

“We have about five MLB scouts at every game,” Hall said.

Whether his name is called during July’s Major League Baseball draft remains to be seen, but regardless, Picot will go down as one of Adams’ all-time greatest athletes.

All the battles he has had on the baseball and football fields probably were nothing compared to all the battles he had in the backyard growing up with older brother Nick and twin brother Tait, who also was an invaluable two-player player for Adams in football and was batting close to .400 for the baseball team this spring going into Tuesday.

It didn’t matter if it was Wiffle Ball or tackling drills, the competition was intense enough to where maybe the brothers should have charged admission for neighbors to watch.

“They were pretty intense,” Picot said. “We definitely had fun. A lot of my success comes from there. We just went at it. It was brotherly love and brotherly competition. We had fun.”

Parker and Tait Picot obviously dream of leading Adams baseball to its first MHSAA Finals championship in June before Parker begins his college career at Alabama, or even gets drafted high enough to where it becomes tempting to bypass college altogether.

Assuming Picot eventually winds up in Tuscaloosa, there will be no lobbying Alabama football coach Nick Saban or anyone else on his staff for a walk-on spot on the football team.

Picot couldn’t be more in his passion and element going full-steam ahead in baseball from this point forward.

“It’s nice,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about anything else. I can just focus in and grind on baseball.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Rochester Adams’ Parker Picot comes to the dugout during a game against Lake Orion on May 9. (Middle) Picot looks to his third-base coach for signs while at the plate. (Photos by Keith Dunlap.)

Vast Experience Shapes Retired MLB-er Gates Into 3-Time Finals-Winning Coach

By Steve Vedder
Special for

August 1, 2023

If there is anything that Brent Gates knows for sure, it's that there is no single explanation for three MHSAA Finals baseball championships.

Made in Michigan is powered by Michigan Army National Guard.For starters, the Grand Rapids Christian coach credits the superior coaching he had as a youngster, especially for helping him make the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association Dream Team in 1988.

From there, Gates points to the experience gained as a former Big 10 Baseball Player of the Year, a seven-year major league playing career that saw him rubbing shoulders with such notables as Hall-of-Famer Tony LaRussa and Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly, and then landing at a high school where the critical support he received from players, community and administration was priceless.

Put it all together and that, at least in part, explains Gates becoming the first Grand Rapids-area baseball coach with three state titles on his resume.

The Eagles' 2-1 win over Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett in the June 17 Division 2 Final marked Gates' third title as a coach. His Grand Rapids Christian clubs had previously won back-to-back titles in 2012-13.

Gates passed former Grandville Calvin Christian coach Jay Milkamp as the Grand Rapids-area coach with the most state titles. Milkamp won in 1994 (Class C) and 1996 (Class B).

Gates, a member of three Halls of Fame, is quick to deflect the credit for three championships and two other championship game appearances. What he treasures most is being mentioned in the same breath as other legendary west-side coaches such as Jenison's Gary Cook, Ron Engels of Wyoming Park, Hudsonville's Dave Van Nord, East Grand Rapids' Chris LaMange, formerly Rockford and now Ada Forest Hills Eastern's Ian Hearn and Milkamp, most of whom Gates either played against while an all-stater at Grandville or through coaching at Grand Rapids Christian.

"I'm just a small piece of what has transpired in 11 years," he said. "Just to be mentioned with them and their success is an honor. (Three titles) is not an individual thing, but because of many people and what they can do working day in and day out together.

"I've always said the west side doesn't get the recognition it should in baseball. There are some great coaches here with great baseball talent, and I think you see that in the postseason."

If basketball can spawn what is affectionately known as "gym rats," then Gates is surely a classic example of the diamond's version of someone who has lived and breathed baseball his entire life. He was a two-time all-stater at Grandville who went on to a standout career at the University of Minnesota that included a lifetime .387 batting average. He was named the Big Ten Player of the Year in 1991 and consensus All-American. Gates played internationally with USA Baseball on the 18U team in 1988 and then the collegiate national team in 1989 and 1990. Over those two seasons on the collegiate team he appeared in 68 games, hitting a combined .363 with 49 runs scored and 54 RBIs.

He was drafted by the Oakland A's in the first round (26th overall) of the 1991 draft and went on to hit .264 in 685 major league games over seven seasons.

Gates makes a tag at second base while playing for the national team.Upon his retirement, Gates founded the Frozen Ropes training facility in Grand Rapids, worked as a scout for the Tampa Bay Rays, became the West Michigan Whitecaps' second-ever manager in 2001, coached Byron Center for two years and has compiled a remarkable 298-89 record in two coaching stints at Grand Rapids Christian.

After virtually a lifetime in baseball, Gates said his coaching success can be spread in many directions. He said it began at Grandville, was influenced by such managers as John Anderson at Minnesota and LaRussa and Kelly at the major league level, and with brushing shoulders with many of Grand Rapids' most successful coaches.

The experience led him to a coaching philosophy that includes a priority on building relationships with players, providing a full explanation of his thinking to the players, a quiet but firm coaching of fundamentals, and, above all, communication. If there is anything that Gates does not do, it's relying on the "old-school" coaching method where coaches demand excellence in no uncertain terms.

"I've taken little bits and pieces from a lot of people," said Gates, a member of the Grandville, University of Minnesota and Grand Rapids Halls of Fame. "I want players to figure out who they can be. Whether it's Ken Griffey Jr. as a hitter, Randy Johnson as a pitcher or Terry Steinbach in catching, you don't just take one person and say who can I be? If you want to compete at a high level, you need to be better than anyone you go up against.

"Part of being a good coach, and it doesn't matter if it's a 9U program or high school, is about making players understand and be able to apply what they learn. Baseball is a hard game, one of failure where if you succeed three times out of 10, you're a star. You have to get players to understand failure."

Gates said all three Grand Rapids Christian champions were marked by different strong suits. The 2012 club, for example, breezed its way to a 36-5 record, while the 2013 club finished the regular season just 12-15 but put together a torrid seven-game winning streak during the tournament. This year's team was marked by a deep pitching staff and what Gates describes as a "group of gamers."

"All of them were different, but I firmly believe that pitching and defense win championships," Gates said. "But you also have to get hot at the right time."

It's not unusual for major leaguers to completely hang up the spikes once their playing days are over. They're tired of the pressure, the frustration of fading talent and losing the battle with Father Time, and the constant travel away from family. Gates faced all that and still found himself enthralled with the idea of coaching.

Gates presents the championship trophy this season to his Grand Rapids Christian players."I've loved the game since I was like 4 years old. There's nothing better than smelling pine tar or the look of manicured grass. The smells and sounds of baseball, that's what I love," he said.

One of his coaching goals is to impart the love of the game to his players. And it seems the message is getting across.

"It's awesome playing for him," said first baseman/pitcher Ty Uchman, who graduated this spring. "He gets us to focus on the little things. If there is something on our minds, we know we can go to him. He's an open book. I know he'll always talk to us, and that builds trust and a bond."

Another recent grad, infielder Kyle Remington, will follow Gates' footsteps to the University of Minnesota and said one particular trait sticks out to him about his coach.

"He's very patient," Remington said. "There are all levels of players in high school, and he treats them all the same. Doesn't matter if they're struggling; he never raises his voice. He's a very comfortable and relatable coach to play for.

"He knows baseball is a game of failure so if you don't understand a drill or an adjustment to have to make, he'll talk to you in a patient way."

Gates said he suspected even when he was a major leaguer that coaching was likely in his future.

"I did, and it was an easy decision. God has a plan, and I had a feeling I would stay in the game," he said. "Baseball has given me everything. I love the game, and I know I've been blessed. I want to take what I've learned and pass it along. That's always been a part of me."

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PHOTOS (Top) Brent Gates appears on the USA Baseball collegiate national team in 1989 and makes a pitching change during this spring’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) Gates makes a tag at second base while playing for the national team. (Below) Gates presents the championship trophy this season to his Grand Rapids Christian players. (National team photos courtesy of USA Baseball.)