Upping his game

Many high school athletes never get the chance to play beyond high school and get stuck reliving high school glories for the rest of their lives and wondering “what could have been” if they made it to college.

Alpena’s Tim Atkinson is not going to be one of those players. On Thursday, he signed a letter of intent to play baseball with Delta College.

“(Signing) is a really great feeling. My whole senior year and most of my junior year I’ve been focusing on trying to figure out where I’m going to college. Its actually a very stressful process and I’m glad its out of the way before the season starts,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson has been one of Alpena’s best male athletes in the past few years. He excelled in both baseball and football and drew interest from colleges for both sports.

“It was really hard picking between football and baseball, but now that I’m playing baseball for Delta, I really feel like everything worked out for me that way it was supposed to,” he said.

Atkinson was the Wildcats’ Offensive Player of the Year for 2013 and earned first team all-Big North Conference honors and was named to the Division 1 all-district team.

Atkinson led the Wildcats’ baseball team with six home runs and seven doubles and hit nearly .400. He was also a stellar starting pitcher, going 8-1 in 2013. He threw three one-hit games and averaged over one batter struck out per inning.

He also led his 19-U travel team in home runs and doubles with a .307 batting average.

Atkinson is joining a young, but talented Delta team. In only its second year of existence in 2013, it was one win away from making it to the National Junior College World Series.

Delta also picked up Atkinson teammate Ryan Hendricks, creating a bond of commonality between players.

“We think of Northeast Michigan as our territory to recruit. We’re the furthest north in our conference, so we come up here and get players,” Delta baseball coach Dan Smith said. “Alpena with the success that they’ve had and their ability to compete year in and year out is a magnet for our recruiting. The fact that Tim stands out in a great program is just another reason we wanted him at Delta.”

Smith had been trying to contact Atkinson for a long time before they finally spoke. Atkinson had the chance to travel to Saginaw liked the school atmosphere and the future teammates he ran into on campus.

“It’s a great school and a beautiful campus. (Coach Smith) also made it very, very affordable for me to go there and Ryan Hendricks really talked up the program and how good of a program it was and what they have going for them,” Atkinson said.

Atkinson will be pitching and playing first base, although he has proven himself capable of filling other roles as necessary.

A big part of the Delta’s interest in Atkinson came from his left handed pitching and power batting style.

“The thing that interested me the most was that he could hit and hit for power and his ability to make the ball leave the yard. If it doesn’t leave the yard, its a lot of gap shots. He’s just a quality hitter with a good eye that can help take us out of the small ball game,” Smith said.

Smith explained the details of the signing to Atkinson in great detail before Atkinson put pen to paper. By signing Atkinson agrees to attend Delta and cannot decide to sign with another junior college. However he could sign to a larger, four-year university.

Atkinson’s agreement cannot be rescinded based on poor performance. If he has a rough first or second year, Delta cannot use that as a reason to release him from the team.

However, with such a promising high school career, Atkinson is likely to bring Delta the kind of player that will help take its team to the next level.

“Ever since I was a very young kid I’ve dreamed about a future playing at the next level, whether it was college or professionally. I’m thrilled to be able to do that now,” he said

Eric Benac can be reached via email at ebenac@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.