High 5s: 6/12/12

June 14, 2012

A few thousand teams began this spring on MHSAA fields and courts. Heading into the final weekend of the 2011-12 school year, that number is down to 100 and change.

Each week, Second Half gives "High 5s" to athletes and a team based on their accomplishments the previous week or throughout the season. Below are an athlete and team who will be looking to finish this season with one last win.

Josh Vyletel
Howell senior

Vyletel threw a complete-game no-hitter as Howell beat rival Brighton 4-3 in a Division 1 Quarterfinal on Tuesday to advance to the MHSAA Semifinals for the first time. Vyletel improved to 15-2 this spring, which ties him for 10th in the MHSAA record book for most wins in one season. He’ll take the ball again Friday for the Highlanders against Warren DeLaSalle at Battle Creek’s Bailey Park.

My kind of pitcher: “I want to be a pitcher that’s a go-to guy. I always want to be consistent. I know how to throw strikes; I don’t walk too many batters. I know if I get it over the plate, good things will happen. I’m not really the kind of pitcher that will blow it by you. My game is hitting the corners and such, and when I do it pretty well and locate my pitches, I believe in myself.”

He winds up and delivers: “My fastball moves by itself, and I usually keep them off-balance with the curve. My fastball and curveball I can locate the best.”

No. 1 highlight: “Against Brighton, the last game we played. It was crazy. There was a big crowd, and every pitch the parents and students were just going out cheering. It got my adrenaline going.”

I learned the most about baseball from: “My dad (John) has always been there for me. He’s always backing me up on baseball. He was never a great baseball player, but he says if you believe in yourself you can go far in life. He taught me to believe in myself.”

Up next: Vyletel will attend Lansing Community College beginning this fall and join the Stars’ baseball team. 

Grandville Calvin Christian girls soccer

Calvin Christian will play for its first MHSAA championship Saturday at Michigan State University. Last weekend, the Squires (24-2-1) knocked out two ranked teams in last week’s Division 4 Regional – first No. 8 St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 7-0 and then No. 2 Kalamazoo Christian 7-2. The Squires entered the postseason ranked No. 4.

This spring's previous honorees

Monroe High Memories Remain Rich for Michigan's 1987 Mr. Baseball

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

July 22, 2024

WHITE LAKE – Dan Hilliard’s time came before Twitter, before computers were part of everyday life and almost before there was such a thing as Mr. Baseball.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosBut he fit the bill perfectly.

As legendary Monroe Evening News sportswriter Bill Brenton once wrote about Hilliard’s Monroe High School baseball career, “a complete list of accomplishments would overload this word processor.”

Hilliard was an outstanding pitcher at Monroe High School during the late 1980s. He never lost a game his junior and senior seasons on the mound. He was an all-state choice and after his senior year was named Mr. Baseball, the second recipient of the award that has been handed out by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association since 1986.

Scott Salow, the head coach at Homer High School when the Trojans won 75 straight games and his sport’s national coach of the year in 2005 by the National High School Coaches Association, was a high school teammate of Hilliard.

“He was absolutely dominant,” Salow recalls. “Our best overall player. He could hit and run as well.”

Hilliard was as surprised as anyone to learn he was Michigan’s Mr. Baseball after his senior season.

“I didn’t know there was any such thing as Mr. Baseball,” Hilliard said.

After going 9-0 with a 1.42 ERA and a .506 batting average in 1987, Hillard was invited to play in the MHSBCA All-Star Game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. At a pregame dinner, one of the board members pulled him aside and told him they were going to call him up to the podium and introduce him as Mr. Baseball.

“I just thought, ‘Wow, OK,’” Hilliard said. “I didn’t really think baseball had that award. I didn’t really think of it.”

Hillard was a pitcher-outfielder for Monroe. For his career, he went 27-2 as a pitcher and had 57 stolen bases in 60 attempts.

“To me, I didn’t think I did anything super crazy,” he said. “I was part of a really good team. We put together a lot of wins. To me, I was just a part of the team. I didn’t think I stood out more than anyone else. It’s humbling to think back on those times.”

Longtime Blissfield coach Larry Tuttle – who has the most wins of any high school baseball coach in Michigan history – coached Hilliard in American Legion ball. Tuttle’s Blissfield team won the prestigious Monroe Auto Equipment Co. Baseball Tournament during Hilliard’s senior season, but Hilliard received the Most Valuable Player Award.

“He was very deserving of that honor,” Tuttle said. “He was a great pitcher, the best around. We recruited him to play summer ball with us.”

Tuttle was on the Mr. Baseball selection committee when the award began.

“We met and talked about it and decided we needed to do something to honor the best player in the state,” Tuttle said. “Dan was no doubt deserving after the season and career he had.”

Hilliard headlines in the Detroit Free Press on June 18, 1987. (Hilliard grew up in Monroe, near the shores of Lake Erie, playing recreation baseball during the week and on a travelling “all-star” team that a few parents would organize on the weekends. As a youngster he played in the famed Monroe County Fair All-Star Tournament, which dates back to the early 1960s and is still going strong.

At Monroe, he couldn’t play high school baseball until his sophomore season.

“Back then, the high school was only sophomores through seniors,” he said. “I wasn’t at the high school as a freshman.

“I was a little intimidated at first,” he added. “It didn’t take long for me to realize I did belong up there on the varsity. I was the youngest guy on the team, so a few guys took me under their wing. I had a great time.”

Hilliard went 4-2 as a sophomore hurler for Butch Foster’s Trojans. His junior year is when he shined the brightest, going 14-0 on the mound with a 0.69 ERA and 155 strikeouts. He easily was picked as the player of the year by the local newspaper. He followed that up with another undefeated senior season and then joined Tuttle’s Blissfield-based American Legion team for the summer.

“I put together three pretty good years,” he said. “That was that.”

He made the short drive to Blissfield one afternoon for a game.

“It was my night to be on the mound, so I was in the bullpen warming up and Coach Tuttle came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you.’ That’s when he told me I was picked for the East-West All-Star game. I thought, well, that’s pretty cool,” Hilliard recalled.

Once in Detroit, the all-star players got together for a workout, then went to a banquet where Hilliard was announced as the statewide player of the year.

“A lot of the guys there were guys I had never heard of or never played against,” he said. “They were from different parts of the state.”

Hilliard went to Central Michigan University to play baseball, but never donned the Chippewas uniform. When his sophomore season rolled around, he transferred to Spring Arbor University near Jackson, where his older brother and Salow were playing baseball.

“I thought it was a better fit for me,” Hilliard said. “It ended up being great. I loved playing college baseball.”

It was at Spring Arbor where a teammate introduced him to his future wife, Elizabeth. They moved to White Lake soon after where they still live and have raised three children, ranging in age from 20-28. Sports remained a big part of Hilliard’s life. His two daughters both played volleyball in college, and his oldest daughter is now a coach at a university in Illinois. His youngest daughter plays college beach volleyball in North Carolina. His son was a three-sport athlete in high school who studied turf management at Michigan State University.

Hilliard works for an electrical supply house in Waterford.

“Things are going good,” he said. “It is a very nice place to live. There are a lot of lakes around here.”

His Mr. Baseball plaque hangs on the wall in his basement, right next to a photo of him at Tiger Stadium with the rest of the East-West all-stars.

“It pops into my head every so often,” he said of his high school days. “I pay attention to the local high schools up here and see who’s playing well. I think about those times a lot. I don’t talk about them often, but I think about it.”

He doesn’t have video clips of games he pitched, but the memories are strong.

“In this day and age with internet and YouTube and all these videos, you see a lot of great players in the state,” he said. “I wonder what it would have been like if I would have been in this modern day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

July 17: Record-Setting Viney Gained Lifelong Confidence at Marine City - Read
July 11: 
High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb - Read
July 10: 
Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach - Read
June 28:
 E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage - Read

PHOTOS (Top) At left, Dan Hilliard pitches for Monroe High as a senior in 1987; at right, he holds up his Mr. Baseball Award that continues to hang on a basement wall. (Middle) Hilliard headlines in the Detroit Free Press on June 18, 1987. (Top photos courtesy of Dan Hilliard. Clipping courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.)