Baseball Remains Front of Tuttle's Mind, Close to Retired Coach's Heart

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

June 29, 2023

BLISSFIELD – Larry Tuttle jogged out of Tuttle Dugout onto the artificial turf at Adrian College and took his spot in the third base coach’s box, looked in at the batter as he approached the plate and clapped his hands.  

It’s like he never left.  

For more than 50 years, Tuttle occupied the third base coach’s box for the Blissfield Royals. He is the winningest high school baseball coach in Michigan history and one of the winningest prep baseball coaches in America. It’s been two years since Tuttle last coached the Royals, but when the Lenawee County All-Star Game came around this year, and Onsted coach Matthew Randall was named a head coach of one of the teams, one of his first calls was to Tuttle. 

“To see him coach third base again for two innings of that all-star game was nothing short of amazing,” Randall said. “I love that man and everything he has taught me.” 

Tuttle and Randall faced off about 40 times over the years. 

“There’s a lot of respect between us,” Tuttle said. “I was happy to do it.” 

Tuttle, 79, is a Morenci native who played baseball and graduated from Adrian College, coached for one year at Temperance Bedford and five decades at Blissfield. He spends a little more than half of the year in Florida these days in a house he owns in The Villages, a retirement community about an hour north of Orlando.  

This past spring, Blissfield took a spring baseball trip to Florida and Tuttle was able to come out to the field and watch a few practices. 

“That’s the best time,” he said. “I always enjoyed those first practices of each season. People will ask me, ‘But what about the cold? It’s always so cold in Michigan that first week.’ The first 10 days or two weeks or so inside, that’s where we formed our whole season, working on the fundaments and the strategy, getting the kids mentally ready for the season. That was a fun part of coaching.” 

He returns home to Michigan each summer to spend time with his kids and grandchildren, including a freshman-aged granddaughter who is showing good things in softball. His roots are in southeast Michigan, and he has every intention of keeping it that way. 

Tuttle’s jersey is retired during a 2021 ceremony. Tuttle’s career at Blissfield was nothing short of remarkable.  

He coached Blissfield for 54 seasons. It would have been 55, but the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID. The Royals won 1,332 games during his career. They won 33 District titles, 23 Regional championships and seven Finals crowns. Blissfield also won 40 league titles, including in his final season of 2021. His No. 18 jersey was retired by the school district.  

In 2015, Tuttle was an easy inaugural choice for the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame.  

This summer, Tuttle returned to Michigan in time to see Blissfield play a few regular-season games and was there when his beloved Royals played in the Division 3 District tournament. He wore his familiar Royals gear. When the Lenawee County All-Star game was played, Tuttle was in his full Blissfield uniform. It still fits perfectly. 

“I still enjoy the game,” Tuttle said. “It’s my energy level that just isn’t what it used to be. That’s why I stepped down. I still love the strategy of the game.” 

When he’s watching a game, he still goes through every play in his mind and what he would do if he was calling the shots. 

“You’re always coaching even though you might a spectator,” he said. “It may not be the right way, but it’s my way. That’s baseball. I love thinking about what to do on this count or that count, to take a pitch or not.  

“I see a lot of coaches these days who had played in college. Young coaches coach the college way, but you are dealing with high school kids who may not have a real firm understanding of the game itself. You have to teach high school baseball to college kids. You don’t teach college or pro ball to high school kids.” 

Tuttle, who has battled some health issues the last couple of years, misses being in his role as coach. 

“I miss the players and the relationships I had with umpires and the other coaches,” he said. “It’s hard to replace that.” 

Tuttle is an icon in Lenawee County. When he goes to a game, people gather around him to talk. He still follows the area teams and has a relationship with several coaches and ex-players.  

Tuttle enjoyed monumental success at Blissfield. The Royals’ last sub-.500 season was in 1971. 

“I know that because I have the records,” Tuttle said. “The closest we came was we were 8-8 one year in the 1980s.” 

Tuttle has been a stickler for stats his entire career. Some coaches have a hard time remembering how their team did two years ago. Tuttle knows. He kept intricate stats on every team he’s coached at Blissfield and to this day has them organized only a few steps away from his kitchen table at his home in Blissfield – which is just across the street from the high school and a long home run away from the baseball field that is named in his honor. 

“I have a file cabinet full of files from each season and I have the scorebook from every year I coached at Blissfield, starting in 1968,” Tuttle said. “Stats were always important to me, not the wins, but the stats. Baseball stats tell you so much about the game.” 

Since stepping aside, Tuttle has had time to reflect on his career.  

“I would have never believed I would have coached that long,” Tuttle said. “Then, I sit back and think, ‘That was a lot of wins, wasn’t it?’ I don’t mean that in a bragging way. I think more about it when I go to a game.” 

Randall recently announced his retirement from Onsted after 13 years as head coach. Onsted is in the same conference as Blissfield, the Lenawee County Athletic Association, so he had a close-up view of Tuttle in action. 

He now has a memory of the last game he coached at the All-Star Game at Adrian College. 

“I credit a lot of my coaching philosophy to this day to him,” Randall said. “Our relationship has really grown over the years. I wanted Coach Tuttle to be with me in my final game. That’s why I asked him.”

PHOTOS (Top) Retired Blissfield baseball coach Larry Tuttle coaches third base during the June 26 Lenawee County All-Star Game. (Middle) Tuttle’s jersey is retired during a 2021 ceremony. (Photos by Doug Donnelly.)

2023 Bush Award Honorees Groat, Albright, Show Dedication in Multiple Roles

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

August 3, 2023

Battle Creek St. Philip’s Vicky Groat and Midland High’s Eric Albright both have devoted themselves to Michigan school sports for multiple decades – and both continue to lead as highly-successful coaches while also serving in multiple administrative roles within their schools and as important voices in statewide leadership as well.

To recognize their dedication and far-reaching contributions to educational athletics, Groat and Albright have been named recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Allen W. Bush Award for 2023.

Al Bush served as executive director of the MHSAA for 10 years. The award honors individuals for past and continuing service to school athletics as a coach, administrator, official, trainer, doctor or member of the media. The award was developed to bring recognition to people who are giving and serving without a lot of attention. This is the 32nd year of the award.

Groat will enter this fall’s girls volleyball season with a career coaching record of 1,240-304-95, ranking seventh on the MHSAA coaching wins list for her sport. She took over for her mother, equally-legendary Sheila Guerra, for the 1997-98 winter season, stepped away briefly after her second year, and returned to lead the program again in 2000-01. Groat has guided the Tigers to 14 MHSAA Finals championships, including a record nine straight in Class D from Winter 2006-07 through Fall 2014 (volleyball moved to the fall with the 2007-08 school year), and most recently guided St. Philip to back-to-back Division 4 championships to cap the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

A 1985 graduate of the school, Groat is entering her 17th year as the athletic director and also took over as principal on an interim basis in December 2014 and then permanently to begin the 2016-17 school year. She previously had served as the school’s student services director and as an assistant principal. She also served on the MHSAA Representative Council from 2016-20 and is a longtime leader as part of the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA).

Groat is a member of the Battle Creek St. Philip Athletic and MIVCA Halls of Fame. She was named Michigan High School Coaches Association volleyball Coach of the Year in 2009, and the national Coach of the Year for her sport by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association in 2021. She earned her bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University in 1989 and master’s from Fort Hays State University (Kan.) in 2019.

“Vicky Groat has established herself as one of the most accomplished volleyball coaches in the state and also wears multiple difficult hats so well as the athletic director and principal,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “Her passion for St. Philip school and its students is evident at every turn, and her desire to help all students excel has been a great benefit to her school and throughout Michigan.”

Albright came to Michigan from Minnesota, graduating from Royalton High School in 1992 and then Hamline University with his bachelor’s degree in 1996. He began at Midland High as a teacher in 1997 and continued in the classroom through 2013-14, adding the varsity baseball coaching job in 2003 and building a 520-199 record over the last two decades while also leading the Chemics to seven league and four District titles and a Division 1 Semifinals appearance in 2018. He became the school’s athletic director in 2010 and serves as an assistant principal as well.

Midland has hosted various MHSAA postseason events under Albright’s direction, including Finals tennis, Semifinals in soccer and football and Quarterfinals for basketball, softball and volleyball. Albright has served on seven committees or task forces for the Association and as part of the Representative Council since 2019.

Albright also is beginning his tenure as president of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) and is a Leadership Training Course instructor for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA). He received a master’s degree from Central Michigan University in 2000 and earned a certified athletic administrator designation from the NIAAA in 2013. Albright also has been an MHSAA registered official in basketball and baseball over the last two decades, most recently in both sports since 2018-19. He worked as a professional baseball umpire in the Gulf Coast League during the 1997 season before beginning his tenure at Midland.

“Eric Albright is a leader in school-based athletics across Michigan with his work with the MIAAA and MHSAA, and he’s become a go-to person for other athletic directors statewide,” Uyl said. “He has worked tirelessly to provide a wealth of guidance and vision, continuously demonstrating his passion for educational athletics.”

PHOTOS Battle Creek St. Philip volleyball coach Vicky Groat steps on the court to receive her team's Division 4 championship trophy in 2021, and Midland's Eric Albright (far right) confers with his pitcher during the 2018 Division 1 Baseball Semifinals.