By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – As Thomas Eitniear was preparing to bat for what is likely the final time at the Whiteford baseball field, Bobcat assistant baseball coach Nick Guthrie had a message for him.
“I told him I wanted him to hit a home run,” Guthrie said.
Mission accomplished. Eitniear came up to the plate in the fifth inning and blasted his first over-the-fence home run since his freshman season, helping the Bobcats to a 15-1 win over Morenci in a game that clinched no worse than a share of the TCC title. It is Whiteford’s fourth straight TCC baseball title.
“Coach Guthrie came up to me and I said, ‘what do you want to see me hit? He said ‘I want to see you hit a home run.’ So, I thought, ‘Okay, I have to do it.’ It felt pretty good.”
Things aren’t always that easy for the four-year, three-sport athlete but at times he’s made it look that way. Eitniear has played three sports his entire career at Whiteford and said he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“There were times where I thought about not playing one sport or another,” he said. “Like if I am in football season, I wasn’t thinking anything about basketball, just football. But, when basketball season came, I wanted to play basketball. You just have to do it, play everything. That’s my message to anyone – just play all of the sports. You won’t regret it.”
Eitniear is leaving quite a legacy at Whiteford, with a long list of team championships and individual accomplishments. He’s received All-State notice in all three sports and the Bobcats won league championships in all three sports he plays this year.
One of the individual awards came to fruition Thursday when Eitniear was presented the Rich Tompkins Multi-Sport Award by the Michigan High School Coaches Association. Larry Merx, the executive director of the association, gave Eitniear a plaque for the award, which goes only to athletes who have played in three sports for four years in high school. He’s the first athlete from Monroe County to win the award.
Merx said when you compare all of the things Eitniear did on the court and on the field, plus in the classroom, he stood above the rest of the athletes in Class C in the state of Michigan.
“The purpose of the award is to recognize the kids who have not specialized – which is a trend – but done other things and have been successful,” Merx said. “We have had some great award winners. I’ve made a lot of presentations and I’ve yet to find a kid who wasn’t an outstanding student athlete.”
Merx said the committee looks at everything from if the athletes were captains, won team awards and what they have done as far as community service.
“Thomas and one other kid scored around 600 when we ranked them,” Merx said. “Everyone else in Class C was down about the 400 range. He’s very deserving. Of all the nominees, he’s way up there.”
Eitniear said he’s grateful for the support from his parents, family, friends, coaches and the community.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “I really appreciate my whole community and my friends and family supporting me. I couldn’t ask for better support.”