By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI
News Sports Editor
It's the goal of every elite high school athlete to have their schooling paid for and, at the same time, continue playing the sport they love at the next level.
News Photo by Chris Dobrowolski
Alpena High School’s Tyler Skiba, left, and Tom Atkinson, right, sign their letters-of-intent to play golf and baseball, respectively, at Madonna University on Wednesday at Alpena High School.
Two Alpena standouts had that goal come to fruition as they have signed with Madonna University.
Tom Atkinson, who plays baseball and football at Alpena, is going to be suiting up for the Crusaders' baseball team, while Tyler Skiba, a hockey and golfer for AHS, is joining Madonna's golf team.
Both cited the scholarships they'll be receiving from Madonna as a big factor in deciding to attend college there in the fall.
"They offered me a ton of scholarship money," said Skiba, who plans to major in pre-optometry. "It's an academic scholarship for $44,000 over the four years. That's half my tuition paid for. I'll have a chance to play my way into an athletic scholarship down the road."
Skiba was looking at possibly going to Olivet, but felt the competition at Madonna would be a little more challenging.
Atkinson also looked at offers from MIAA schools, including Alma, Hope and Adrian, but elected to join the NAIA school in Livonia.
"This place had a lot more opportunities for scholarships," said Atkinson, who plans to major in education. "It was an economic choice."
Atkinson is the latest in a pipeline of Alpena players to join the Madonna baseball squad. Close to a dozen Alpena grads have gone to Madonna, most recently 2001 Alpena alum Jason Barbeau.
"It's good that the coach (Greg Haeger) looks up here," said Atkinson. "He's a good coach to play for."
Skiba, who was the Big North Conference medalist as a sophomore and finished second last year, has a summer full of golf planned to get ready for the next level. He'll be playing on the Adams Tour, a junior tour that he's played on in the past two years. He also competed in the Traverse City Junior Tour for three years. He took second in a pair of Adams events last summer.
"There's nothing like playing tournament golf," said Skiba. "(The Adams Tour) is good because they host quite a few two-day tournaments."
Skiba indicated he's hoping to work on his short game before he leaves in the fall.
"I just have to get consistency and play up to my potential," he said.
Atkinson roams the outfield for the Wildcats and its a position he's slated to see action at with the Crusaders, who are ranked 12th in the nation. Initially, Atkinson's role will be based around his speed.
"They really like my speed and my bat speed," said Atkinson. "Hopefully within a few years I'll be able to get into the outfield."
Like Skiba, Atkinson is going to devote his summer to his sport. He'll play Babe Ruth ball as well as County League ball after the high school season ends in the next five or six weeks.
"I'd like to get better at fielding and work on putting the bat on the ball a little more," said Atkinson.