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They have been fixtures at prominent high school baseball programs the past few seasons, crossing paths a handful of times.
They knew of each other as rivals, and nothing more.
Max Hendricks of Hartland and Cameron Tullar of Brighton got an opportunity to break the ice when they played on the same team in the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches’ Association all-star game June 29 at Comerica Park.
“Talking to him on the bench, he’s a really nice person and a great athlete,” Tullar said. “It was definitely nice to get to know him on a personal level (rather) than a rival level.”
“I only played against him, never really talked to him, but at the all-star game we talked a little bit,” Hendricks said. “You play against them, you know how they are at a competitive level. How they are on a personal level, that’s the big difference I saw.”
After three years of being focal points in the Brighton-Hartland rivalry, Hendricks and Tullar ended their high school careers in the same all-star dugout and with the same honor — co-Players of the Year on the All-Livingston County team.
Hendricks and Tullar provided similar contributions as seniors on teams that won district championships as ace pitchers who possessed extra-base power at the plate. Both made second-team all-state in Division 1.
Hendricks reached the varsity level first, starting as a freshman on a team that won the 2015 Division 1 state championship. Tullar made Brighton’s varsity as a sophomore in 2016, holding down the role as the Bulldogs’ No. 1 pitcher the last two seasons.
“It’s scary how fast it flew by,” Hendricks said. “All four years, I had a great time. Everything just went by so fast. There are a lot of memories and a lot of great people.”
Tullar said the highlight of playing for Brighton was “probably just making new connections with new teammates every year, just enjoying high school while it lasts.”
As a ninth-grader facing current University of Michigan pitcher Tommy Henry, Hendricks was 3-for-5 with two stolen bases in a 2-1 10-inning victory over Portage Northern in the state championship game. He was the Eagles’ leading hitter with a .432 average.
“At the time, I don’t think I really grasped what was actually happening,” Hendricks said. “I think I was just going with the flow. Thinking about it in retrospect, it was incredible going through that. I was given an opportunity not many people are given.”
Hendricks put his name in the state record book this season, collecting 11 triples. That total is tied for fifth on the state’s single-season list. His 19 career triples are also tied for fifth in state history. He added 12 doubles and a homer for a .677 slugging percentage. He led Hartland with a .398 batting average.
“Once I hit the ball in the gap, I knew I had to run hard out of the box,” said Hendricks, who had 189 hits, 137 runs and 52 steals in his career. “Whenever you get to that corner on second base, you have to make that decision whether you want to go. I was confident. I felt like most of the time I could get there. I think I had half my triples at Hartland. It’s pretty spacious out in the gaps; the outfielders have a longer way to go. That might’ve played a little bit into helping me get those triples, as well.”
As a pitcher, Hendricks was 6-4 with a 1.88 ERA, striking out 76 batters and walking only 13 in 59⅔ innings. A shortstop, Hendricks’ all-state recognition came as an infielder.
Hendricks will play for NCAA Division II Wayne State. He’s working hard over the summer, but not on the baseball diamond. He is taking a few months off from baseball to work 12-hour days at his family’s vineyard in Hartland Township.
“I’m just training over the summer,” he said. “This summer my family really needed my help for the family farm. I just wanted to help out. Of course, it requires a lot of hard work.”
Tullar established himself as one of the county’s best players as a junior, going 5-3 with a 1.21 ERA while striking out 86 batters in 57⅔ innings. He also hit a team-high five homers.
With his star rising in baseball, Tullar made a difficult decision last summer, choosing to not play football. Tullar was Brighton’s starting quarterback as a junior when the Bulldogs won the KLAA West championship.
“I knew I wanted to focus on baseball,” Tullar said. “I hope to have a career in it. I hope that will lead to a future. It was a hard decision, but at the end of the day, I made the right choice. I decided to focus on the only sport I love. In summer baseball, we were going hard. I wanted to focus on that more than football.
“I miss the Friday nights. I miss being on the field playing in front of everybody.”
Before taking the diamond in the spring, Tullar chose to go the junior college route, committing to Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Illinois.
Wabash Valley finished seventh in the national Division 1 junior college tournament this season. The Warriors have had 75 players drafted or signed by major league teams since 1997 under coach Rob Fournier.
By going to a junior college, Tullar is eligible to be drafted in 2019 and 2020. If he attended a four-year college, he couldn’t be drafted until after his junior season.
“It’s a good advantage,” Tullar said. “I’d love to hopefully get drafted out of there. My plan is to play ball as long as I can. My coach in college will do anything he can to get me to the next left or get me drafted, as long as I put in the work. He’s had quite a few every year go to high Division 1-level schools.”
Tullar said he will focus on pitching in college, even though he hit 10 home runs and drove in 70 runs over the last two seasons.
On the mound, he was 7-3 with a 1.59 ERA as a senior. He struck out 98 and allowed only 34 hits in 70⅔ innings. In three postseason games, he gave up only 12 hits and six runs in 22⅓ innings, striking out 25.
He threw a shutout against Howell in the district championship game, delivering the game’s first run with a double in the first inning.