Tito Flores has made the most of this crazy time while living in the COVID-19 pandemic world, getting the opportunity to spend time with his younger brothers after making a smooth transition to college life before the virus put an end to normal in mid-March.
Flores, an infielder, helped Birmingham Brother Rice advance to the Division 1 state semifinals last spring before moving on to to play baseball at the University of Michigan.
Flores enjoyed the transition to college life, both in the classroom and on the field for the Wolverines, who were coming off a College World Series appearance.
One of Flores’ first games was a trip to Nashville to play reigning national champion Vanderbilt, which defeated UM two games to one in the CWS. He then got a chance to see what college baseball was all about this spring … or really shall we say winter.
The Wolverines opened the season with a 4-3 win over the Commodores Feb. 14, playing in 70-degree sunny weather in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Michigan also had trips to Florida and California, going 8-7 before returning home to face Canisius March 13 when the game and season came to a crashing halt.
Still, Flores was one of the few — or only — players who could say he hit .1000 his freshman season. He collected his first collegiate hit with a pinch-hit single in a 5-0 win over California at Berkeley March 4 and then got another pinch-hit single in a 12-2 loss to Pepperdine in the Wolverines’ next game March 6.
Flores, along with other athletes in spring sports, will not lose his freshman eligibility due to the pandemic, the NCAA ruled.
“It’s great to have that experience under my belt, being able to be more aware of my surroundings and the friends I’ve made because those friendships that I’ve made are second to none in that process, so now I can go back as a freshmen,” said Flores, who hit .375 from the leadoff spot for Brother Rice last year, belting six homers, stealing 26 bases and scoring 44 runs. “It’s nice to be able to do that, and now I can share my experiences with new freshmen and show them the way, things that I’ve learned, so that’s something that’s really cool.”
Flores talked about his shortened freshman season.
“We traveled to Nashville and played Vanderbilt back in the fall, it was my first experience traveling and it was amazing,” Flores said. “Just to be a kid from Detroit, getting the chance to travel to different places around the country, and to do that through baseball is something you’ll never forget.
“We went to Arizona, Florida and California and I had never been to California and Arizona, so it was an experience that I wouldn’t have had if not for baseball. When we went on that road trip to Arizona, it was my first time with some of the guys and like literally just be soaked in with them. One of the main guys was Dominic Clementi, a senior, and just for him to take me under his wing as a freshman, joke around with him and hang around with him, just an experience you’ll never forget.”
Michigan head coach Erik Bakich not only helps his players become more talented on the diamond but better men off of it, Flores said.
“I always wanted to play at Michigan, was always a fan and Coach Bakich wants you to not only be a better player, but a better man too and I couldn’t be in a better position than I am now,” Flores said. “The coaches at Michigan put us in the best position for us to succeed and having the reps that we’re able to get during the season and to have the coaches at our disposal with the unconditional support they give us is amazing.”
On his first hit, Flores said: “It came against the University of California, a base hit right up the middle. I give my gratitude to the coaches for putting me in that position.”
Flores said playing at Brother Rice helped prepare him for Michigan.
“It’s the brotherhood, the bond, that’s what I love about Michigan and we had that brotherhood at Rice too,” Flores said. “Our baseball program at Rice really got me ready for Michigan because our coaches, Bob Riker and Kyle Galli could easily be college coaches with the knowledge and experience they have, so transitioning to Michigan, the big thing is now it’s faster and you’re seeing different guys, but baseball never changes so that was something I was prepared with in high school.”
Flores is majoring in sports management with a minor in business, hoping to one day work in front office, marketing or a financing job of a professional sports organization.
“The support staff that we have at Michigan is wonderful, plenty of tutors at our disposal and everyone is there to help us, so for me coming from a collegiate high school, like a pre-college high school was definitely an easier transition for me,” Flores said. “
Now, Flores is back home in Allen Park, getting the opportunity to spend more time with his family, including his younger brothers, 10-year-old Anthony and Alex, 7.
“I’ve had the opportunity to spend more time with my brothers, which is something that’s hard to do when you’re in college or in high school training,” Flores said. “I’ve had a lot of fun spending more time with them, and that’s working out outside, hitting off the tee or playing board games inside, which is cool and something they enjoy so why not try to soak it all in now when the opportunity presents itself.”