A job well done to Hillman Sports Hall of Fame
Ten years ago, Wendell Orm asked a simple question: Why not Hillman?
That question led to the creation of the Hillman Sports Hall of Fame, which will induct its 10th class at Hillman High School next Saturday.
“I was noticing that other schools had this sort of thing and that Hillman didn’t,” Orm told The News in 2014. “Why not give athletes that exposure and honor? I think it’s good for morale.”
In a decade of honoring Hillman’s best, the Hall of Fame has welcomed accomplished coaches, baseball stars (including many members of Hillman’s 1990s championship teams), softball standouts, basketball stars, a decorated wrestler, and multi-sport athletes who left their mark in the annals of school history.
“You think of the big schools and they’ve got a wide variety of Halls of Fame and athletes,” Eric Muszynski, Hillman athletic director and Hall of Fame board member, said. “Hillman is a great sports town with lots of tradition, and it’s been a fun process seeing it come together over the years.”
Muszynski still remembers the snickers after Hillman’s first year of Hall of Fame inductions. Since it was only the first year, only two teams and one individual athlete were inducted and there were some chuckles about how small Hillman’s Hall of Fame was.
Ten years later, 32 athletes have been inducted and seven Richard Brown Trailblazer Awards — which honors athletes and athletic contributors who competed and contributed before 1955 — have been given out.
Those may not be huge numbers, depending on how you look at it, but it doesn’t make Hillman’s Hall of Fame or the induction ceremony any less meaningful. The Hall of Fame board does a phenomenal job making the event special, for both the inductees and those in attendance, and members of the community and alumni have done a great job supporting it through the years with donations.
The event is always a happy one, but there are plenty of tears, too. Presenters often tear up as they extol accomplishments. Inductees tear up at the mention of coaches or family members and as they thank the community for its support. Members of the audience tear up, too.
It’s in those tears that you really see firsthand just how much family and community means, especially in a small town like Hillman. Though they might be many years removed from their playing careers or living elsewhere, inductees never forget where they come from or the support they received.
But, through the tears and the laughs and the smiles, you learn that Hillman has had some incredible athletes through the years, and the stories the inductees tell are equal parts funny, inspiring, and touching.
It’s a reminder that, even for all the accolades — the state championships, the all-state honors, the all-conference honors, and school records — every inductee at heart is a kid who just loves playing sports, wanted to wear the orange and black Hillman jersey, and was willing to work hard to achieve success in the sports they loved to play.
This year’s class, which includes Greg Jones, Pat Kennard, Mark McMurray, Paul Bennett, Cory McDonald, and Trailblazer Award honoree Earl Seybert, looks to be another outstanding and accomplished group. That group includes an accomplished coach who was a pioneer for girls athletics in Hillman, two state champion baseball players who earned college scholarships, one of Hillman’s all-time best scorers in basketball, a supporter of both Hillman athletics and academics, and a decorated multi-sport star who’s resume includes being named Hillman’s Male Athlete of the Year twice.
It’s an impressive group, and I’d imagine future classes are only going to get more impressive.
“To be able to showcase how great our teams and athletes are is special,” Muszynski said. “It showcases that, even if you’re from a small town, you can make it collegiately. It opens doors to the past and current athletes that, with hard work, anything is possible.”
James Andersen can be reached at 989-358-5686 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.