DETROIT – The symbolism was not lost on the Madison Heights Bishop Foley baseball club, watching Garrett Schilling, its senior team captain and all-state ace hurler, throw out the ceremonial first pitch in the Ventures 3-0 defeat of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in the Catholic League Finals (C-D Division) at Comerica Park Thursday afternoon.
While Schilling, a perfect 35-0 on the mound in his career as a high school pitcher and on-the-mend from getting struck in the face with a line-drive last month, didn’t return to the field for the game, he’s back in uniform in the dugout.
And that means quite a bit.
“Just having him around again is a big deal for this team, his mere presence can’t be overlooked in terms of importance going forward,” Ventures skipper Buster Sunde said. “He’s a tremendous leader and the team rallies around him. He gives everyone a lift.”
Schilling’s first game back was in Saturday’s CHSL semifinals at Madonna University in Livonia. Following his squad’s posting of a third straight league title Thursday, he was glowing.
“I feel great,” he said. “I’m so proud of these guys right now. My teammates fight hard with me when I’m out there beside them and they’ve fought hard for me when I’ve been injured. The love and support is amazing.”
Cleared to start throwing again earlier this week, his status for possible future action on the hill is uncertain.
“I’m seeing how I feel every day, it’s a process, it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “I know I’m on the right track though and I’m healing quickly.”
Sunde isn’t going to rush things.
“It’s awesome having Garrett back, but the focus is on his health and nothing else,” he said. “The goal is to make it so he can enjoy his college career, not getting him back as fast as we can,” he said.
Schilling is signed to pitch in college at Xavier University in Cincinnati. If he gets back sidling up to the rubber again this spring or not, Schilling still has some unfinished business to complete in his time left with the Ventures. That would be snaring state championship ring No. 4.
Later this month, Bishop Foley will enter the state tournament in a quest for an almost-unthinkable fourth consecutive crown.
“Winning another state championship is all that matters,” Schilling remarked.
One out away from a no-hitter on April 24 in his team’s home game versus Macomb Lutheran North, Schilling took a violent blow to the left side of his face. The ball hit him in the eye-socket and he was rushed to nearby Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, where he would have to eventually undergo surgery which inserted metal plates to correct a broken orbital bone.
Mike Murley, who assumed ace duties upon Schilling's injury, was excited to see him cheering from the sidelines Thursday - Murley threw a 2-hitter with 9 ks.
"Glancing over to the dugout and seeing Garrett was a big motivator," he said. "I was jacked for both of us. He's always inspiring me. We wanted to get the job done for him."