All-American puts spotlight on team
By Burke Eizinger
Shortstop feels the draft
On June 6, Purdue shortstop Mitch Hilligoss was selected by the New York Yankees in the 2006 Major League Baseball draft. View the article for more details.
Mitch Hilligoss remembers playing catch with his dad when he was about 2 or 3 years old. "We would go outside and just throw around, but I was involved in anything sports," Hillgoss said.
Photo by Amy Carmen Pflugshaupt
Shortstop Mitch Hilligoss, a junior agricultural communication and farm management major from Windsor, Ill., is only the second Purdue Baseball player to be named an All-American.
He played baseball at every level through high school, winning honors and titles along the way. Now a junior majoring in agricultural communication and farm management, Hilligoss is the starting shortstop for the Purdue University baseball team.
In 2005, the Windsor, Ill., native captured his highest honor so far when he was named a third team All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Before the 2006 season, he was a second team preseason All-American selection. Hilligoss' honor is a big one for Purdue, too: In 118 years, only one other Purdue baseball player has been named an All-American. That was Mike Biltimier, who was drafted in 1993 by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Hilligoss said being named an All-American is a great honor and something he'll look back on later in life, but said he doesn't spend too much time thinking about it. For now, he said he is satisfied with the attention it has brought to the Purdue baseball team. "Not only did I get the recognition for myself, I also got it for our baseball program and the university as a whole," Hilligoss said.
But when he first got word of the award, he didn't believe it. He thought it was just one of his teammates pulling a prank. "Another teammate, Andrew Groves, actually called and told me the news," Hilligoss said. "Then the coaches called and congratulated me. It was an exciting moment."
Doug Schreiber, the team's head coach, said he was grateful and excited when he received news of Hilligoss' honor. "I know how much work he put in to make his entire game better and the type of season he had," said Schreiber. "He deserved it."
Groves, a junior in organizational and leadership sciences from North Liberty, Ind., said Hilligoss is an incredible teammate because he leads by example. "He shows the younger players the way things need to be done," he said. And Hilligoss' success has helped motivate other players on the team to work harder to garner the same success, Groves said.
Hilligoss' play also boosts the team. Having him in the leadoff spot creates some excitement when he steps up to the plate. "His energy rubs off on his teammates," Schreiber said. "He makes other players around him better."
Hilligoss is in good company with other playing for the Dodgers, was an All-American twice when he played for Georgia Tech University.
Attending Purdue was not a hard choice for Hilligoss. He comes from a farm background and Purdue Agriculture's reputation made it an easy choice, he said. Beyond the reputation, Hilligoss said he likes the small class sizes and professors who are willing to help students get the most out of them.
After college, Hilligoss hopes he will still be playing baseball. If not, he wants to use his degree in agricultural communication and farm management in the sales and marketing field, possibly with a chemicals company, or end up back on the family farm.
One other Purdue baseball player has received pre-season All-American honors: Jermaine Allensworth in 1993. Allensworth went on to play in the majors for four years with the Mets, Royals and Pirates.