Detroit — The top high school players in the state got the chance to play on a Major League field Wednesday night, in the West vs. East All-Star Game at Comerica Park.
Some of the premier players in the state weren't in attendance with first-round MLB draft pick Nick Plummer of Birmingham Brother Rice signing over the weekend with the St. Louis Cardinals and starting his pro career in Florida.
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep pitcher Luke Shilling was also unable to attend due to commitments on his travel team in Cincinnati. Shilling, who throws 95 mph, will play his college ball at Illinois.
Still, players like Detroit Western infielder Anthony Gutierrez was thrilled to be playing on the same field the Tigers played on the previous night against the Reds, getting a pair of RBI singles for the East, including a single in the bottom of the eighth which proved to be the difference in a 4-3 victory.
Gutierrez was a replacement player for Plummer, finding out less than a week ago he would be playing.
"I just was looking to help out my team," said Gutierrez who entered the game in the sixth. "I came in late in the game. Actually, I was a replacement player for Nick Plummer so just came in, try to help my team, the East get a win.
"It's unexplainable, coming from the southwest side of Detroit. It's a blessing to be here. I've played here three times in a row for the PSL championship, and I play elite travel ball as well so I know most of these guys. I believe I can compete at any level and just did it today. I just wanted to play hard and give these guys a win."
While Plummer is making millions as a first-round pick of the Cardinals, Gutierrez — whose older brother Hector plays at Michigan — will try to walk on at Wayne State.
Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central infielder Bryce Windham, who recently signed with Old Dominion, also enjoyed the opportunity and earned MVP honors for the West team. He was 2-for-2 and scored a run in the two-run top of the eighth to pull the West even at 3.
In the fall, Windham was the quarterback on St. Mary's football team, which ended Ithaca's 69-game winning streak with a 22-12 win in the Division 6 title game at Ford Field.
Windham ended his prep career across the street at Comerica Park. And don't forget he was the Associated Press Class C Player of the Year in basketball (20.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists).
"It means a lot to be here since there's a lot of great players here tonight," Windham said prior to the game. "I'm real excited to be a part of this and honored to be asked. I played here earlier this season (against Battle Creek St. Philip) and the way I looked at it was Derek Jeter played in the same spot, had the same view. That's a cool way to think about it.
"Winning the state championship football game, I'll never forget that. We watched Monroe St. Mary play Ithaca in the 2010 title game and said we'd beat them when we get there and we did. I mean, there's nothing better, being here now and looking up and seeing Ford Field, remembering that game, ending their streak and the memories from it. This is just a super night."
Hamilton's 6-foot-6 left-hander Grant Wolfram pitched the first two innings for the West, allowing a run, two walks and three hits while striking out two.
So, will he sign with the Tigers as their 17th-round pick or play at Central Michigan?
"I haven't decided, still up in the air," said Wolfram who touches 90 mph with his fastball. "It felt real good to be out there, the mound's great and it was a great opportunity to play with a bunch of good players."
Ohio State-bound Jake VanderWal played for the West team. He hit over .400 for Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central and is trying to follow his father's footsteps to the Majors. John VanderWal, who played at Western Michigan, played in the majors 14 years, including the 2000 season when he hit .299 with 24 homers and 94 RBIs for the Pirates.
"He had the most pinch hits (for a season, 28 for Rockies in '95) and most pinch hit homers for a while," Jake said of his father, who wasn't able to attend due to a scouting trip for the Diamondbacks.
"He taught me a lot about the game. He was still playing when I was eight, went to Yankee Stadium and ran around the bases. My goal since I was younger was to try and follow what my dad did. I've grown up around the game. I always wanted to do what he did and to get a taste of what he did every day for 14 years, it's awesome."
Players did more than play in the 34th Annual Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association All-Star Game. They also attended a banquet at Zuccaro Banquet Hall in Macomb County, then stayed at the Holiday Inn at Roseville before making the trip to the stadium.
"We had a banquet and it was really cool because we got to see all the coaches from around the state and kind of hear all the great things they've done with their lives and their programs," VanderWal said. "They catered the food and everything and it was a really neat set up. It was really cool to be around the guys, too, spend some time with them."
Daniel Robinson of Grosse Pointe North played left field and led off for the East team.
"It's a great venue, a huge field," said Robinson, who will play at Central Michigan. "At first it's hard to get used to, hard to judge the ball off the bat because it's so big and cavernous out there, but once you settle in and get used to it, it's really comfortable and a lot of fun."