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.)

Hart Teammates Reunite After 80 Years as WWII Vets, Great-Grandfathers

By Tom Kendra
Special for

June 7, 2023

Walter “Stretch” Hansen and Harold Tate were good friends and high school basketball and baseball teammates at Hart High School, graduating in 1943.

West MichiganNo one could have guessed that less than two months after graduation (on July 2, 1943), the two friends would head to Fort Custer in Battle Creek, the first stop on their way overseas to fight for their country in World War II.

No one could have imagined how many twists and turns their lives would take over the next 80 years – from the battlefields in the South Pacific, then back to West Michigan where they both were married with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and now Harold even has a great-great-grandchild.

And, certainly, no one would have believed that the two young boys from Hart – who forged a friendship through high school sports long before the days of computers, microwave ovens and cell phones – would still be alive at the age of 98 for an emotional reunion last month, on May 22, seeing each other for the first time in 80 years and, to cap it off, the reunion took place in their hometown of Hart.

“It was such a great day,” Hansen said about the meeting, which was set up by Muskegon-area World War II historian Richard Mullally.

“We picked right up, talking about sports and the service and everything else.”

The conversation came easy for the two old friends, who played for Hart during a “golden era” at the school – particularly in basketball, as the Pirates won 11 West Michigan Conference basketball titles between 1940 and 1954.

Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. Perhaps the best team during that time period was Hansen and Tate’s as seniors in 1943. That team lost only once, to rival Scottville (31-25), but more than made up for it with an 80-10 trouncing of the Spartans in the final regular-season game.

Hart then crushed Scottville and Newaygo to win the District championship, only to have Michigan’s prep basketball season stopped abruptly at that point because of World War II.

That 1943 team featured four starters over 6-0, led by the duo of Hansen and Stan Kapulak (both 6-6), Joe Mack (6-2), Lyle Burmeister (6-1) and Stanley Riley (the lone starter under 6-foot at 5-11).

“The newspapers called us ‘The Hart Skyscrapers,’” said Hansen, who will be 99 on Nov. 6. “We were taller than most college teams at that time.”

Hansen and Tate’s friendship continued to blossom on the baseball field, only to have their lives turned upside down shortly after graduation 80 years ago, when all Hart senior boys who had been drafted headed to Battle Creek as a brief staging area on their way to the battlefields of Europe and the South Pacific.

Hansen served in the Army Specialized Training Program and was part of the 52nd Signal Battalion and the 4025th Signal Battalion in the Pacific Theater.

“I had an all-expense paid tour of the South Pacific,” Hansen said with a chuckle. “The Philippines, New Guinea, Okinawa, Hawaii, all over the place.”

Tate did his service in the 24th Infantry Division and the 19th Infantry Regiment, and was stationed in Japan.

During their visit last month, Harold showed off the Japanese Samurai sword and Arisaka rifle which he had sent back from Japan to Hart. The week after their visit, both took part in Memorial Day parades – Hansen in the Lakeside parade in Muskegon and Tate in his 77th Memorial Day service in Hart.

Hansen, who still has a home on a small lake in Holton and lives at a senior care facility in Muskegon, played many years of semi-pro basketball and did some coaching. He worked at GTE and has five children and 10 grandchildren.

Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II.“I have been so blessed,” Hansen said, sorting through one of his many scrapbooks. “All five of my kids are great and I have grandkids that are just amazing, everything they are doing. I don’t even know all of their names, but it’s sure been fun watching them.”

Tate returned to Hart after his military service and has been there ever since, at first working as a carpenter with his father and then becoming a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, retiring 26 years ago at the age of 72. He has lived in the same home for 75 years and has three children, six grandchildren, seven great-grandkids and now one great-great-grandchild.

Tate laments the demise of his beloved American Legion post in Hart, a town with just over 2,000 residents, as the number of members has steadily declined.

One topic that brings a smile to both of their faces is the recent resurgence of the Hart High School athletic program, which drew media attention not too many years ago for all the wrong reasons – notably a football program which went 24 years without a winning record.

That string was snapped with a 6-3 mark and the school’s first earned playoff appearance last fall.

But that was just the start.

This winter, Hart’s boys basketball team finished the regular season 22-0, the girls basketball team made it to the Division 3 Semifinals at the Breslin Center, wrestling qualified for the Team Finals for the fourth-straight year and competitive cheer placed fourth in Division 4. This spring, the Hart girls track & field team won its second-straight Division 3 Finals team title, and the boys placed fourth.

“It’s a great place to call home, a great place to live, always has been,” said Hansen of his hometown, which got its name from its central position in the “heart” of Oceana County.

And who would have imagined that these two high school teammates could still come home again for a reunion at the age of 98?

Tom KendraTom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Members of the 1943 Hart High School varsity baseball team gather together, preparing for a team photo. Among those are Harold Gayle Tate (far left) and Walter "Stretch" Hansen, at 6-6 the tallest player in the back row. (Middle) Hansen, left, and Tate reunite for the first time in 80 years on Monday, May 22, 2023, in their hometown of Hart. (Below) Hansen served from 1943 to 1946 as a Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Tate served from 1945 to 1946 as a Platoon Sergeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II. (Top photo courtesy of Stretch Hansen. Middle and below photos courtesy of Richard Mullally.)