NORCROSS - Wesleyan baseball coach Mike Shaheen remembers Michael Hutts starting a trend at the Norcross private school.
When his turn was up in the batting order and the Wolves were winning big, Hutts requested that seldom-used reserves pinch-hit for him, ensuring that they got a little game action.
"(Hutts) would tell me, 'I want you to let him hit for me,' and it was maybe someone who didn't get to play much," Shaheen said. "He was that kind of kid. We had guys after him do the same thing and I have guys on the team now that do that."
Shaheen said that's only one of the many memories he has of Hutts, a beloved 2005 Wesleyan graduate who was found dead in his Atlanta apartment last Friday. A junior pitcher on Georgia Tech's baseball team, he will be honored with a memorial service this morning at All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody.
A large showing of support from Wesleyan is expected, including alumni and former teachers flying in from all over the country. Substitute teachers will be available to fill in for Wesleyan teachers who plan to attend the services, while current students will be given excused absences. Those students who didn't know the 21-year-old Hutts were acquaintances of his younger brother Matt, a 2007 Wesleyan grad.
"One of the things that made this so tough for people to handle is everybody liked Michael so much," Wesleyan assistant athletic director and girls basketball coach Jan Azar said. "He was a nice kid. He made good grades. He stayed out of trouble. He obviously made a great mark on the baseball field but he also made a mark as a great person."
Hutts, who attended Wesleyan from sixth grade to high school graduation, made a point of returning to his alma mater when he was on breaks from Georgia Tech. In addition to his own workouts, he helped Shaheen with camps over winter and summer breaks, and became a well-known name to the Wolves' current players.
Shaheen became particularly close with Hutts, referring to his relationship with the left-handed pitcher as being like his "younger brother." The Wesleyan coach and his wife often went to dinner with Hutts and his girlfriend.
On a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with 18 Wesleyan students, Shaheen got news of Hutts' death later than most. When he returned home close to midnight on Sunday, Tony Plagman (Hutts' teammate at both Wesleyan and Tech) was waiting there to greet him and mourn their mutual friend.
"I was telling (Hutts') parents that he had the biggest heart of anyone I've ever seen," Shaheen said. "I never once saw him mad at someone. He cared for his coaches and he cared for his teammates so much.
"Young or old, it didn't matter. He touched everybody he was around because he was such a kind kid. He was just a great kid."
Georgia Tech canceled today's scheduled baseball game with Georgia Southern so the Yellow Jacket players could attend Hutts' memorial service. A Dean's List student at Tech, he also was a three-sport athlete in high school in baseball, basketball and cross country.
Entering this season, Hutts held Wesleyan career records for wins (27) and innings pitched (213) and was second in career ERA (2.03).
His death continues a tough school year for the Wesleyan baseball team. Four people close to the Wolves players have battled cancer over the past year, and one has passed away.
"It's not good," Shaheen said of his program's recent travails. "We do have strong faith (in God) and a strong group. We'll get through it. God doesn't give us anything we can't handle. This week will be tough for sure. But we'll get through it."
According to the Associated Press, the Fulton County Medical Examiner's office said it will be several weeks before it releases the cause of Hutts' death. According to coroner's investigator Mike Alsip, there was no obvious violent cause of death. Corner's investigator Laura Salm indicated that her department usually needs two to four weeks before releasing its report.
Toxicology tests were sent Saturday morning to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which in turn uses a privately owned third-party lab to determine the cause of death.
In lieu of flowers, the Hutts family has asked that donations be made to the Wesleyan School Scholarship Fund or to Georgia Tech's Alexander-Tharpe Fund.