Malewitz, a three-sport athlete at East Grand Rapids, credits older silblings for setting goals, creating a competitive environment
East Grand Rapids – Mike Malewitz recently entered grade school when he remembers playing football against his two older brothers on the family’s front yard.
As often happens with brothers, the game turned a bit rough. And is also the case when brothers start rolling around, it’s the youngest brother who suffers the brunt of the action.
Instead of simply getting thumped by older siblings, Malewitz recalls the moment as one of his earliest lessons in the process of a blossoming athlete.
"I was probably like six or seven and I wanted to beat them," said Malewitz, an East Grand Rapids senior and arguably the best all-around athlete in the O-K Conference Gold Division. "The rule was when we played football that if I put the pads on they could hit me. That’s what we did. And I think it set the tone for me later in life."
Malewitz, 18, credits the relationship he’s had with his brothers for becoming the superb athlete he is. Both Matthew, 29, now living in Seattle, and Zac, 25, residing in Traverse City, were also three-sport athletes. All lettered in football, hockey, and baseball. Matthew was a linebacker on the 2006 Division 3 championship football team and Zac was a pitcher/outfielder on the 2009 baseball team that won a Division 2 title.
Mike Malewitz might be the best all-around athlete of the three. As a quarterback last fall, he threw for 15 touchdowns and ran for 10 more on a team that went 9-0 during the regular season. He scored 19 goals as a right wing on the hockey team and ranks among the school’s top five career leaders in stolen bases (78), doubles (37) and runs (129). He’s batting .352 with 27 runs and 12 doubles for a team that can clinch at least a share of a second consecutive division title with a win over Wayland on Thursday.
Malewitz had been nominated to play in the East-West All-Star game at Comerica Park next month.
"The end of an era, one of the greatest families we’ve ever had at East," said East Grand Rapids baseball coach Chris LaMange, who has had a Malewitz on the roster in 10 of his 14 years as coach.
"In a time when so many kids specialize, the fact that Mike plays all three sports is great. In fact, I think he’s the best player on all three teams. He’s the heart and soul of our team, I know that. He’s proof that a kid can play three sports and still be a college athlete."
Malewitz has stolen 57 bases in 61 attempts the past two seasons and has signed to play baseball at Bowling Green. He currently plays shortstop for the Pioneers but could play as many as three infield spots in college.
Malewitz said among the lessons taught to him by his older brothers, beginning with those rough-and-tumble football games in the front yard, is the value of competing.
"I think we all had the same mentality, that we had this will to win and we’d do anything for the team. We would go hard all the time," said Malewitz, who will likely play nearly 70 varsity games in the three sports over the 2017-18 season.
While proximity has limited how often Matthew and Zac can see their younger brother play, Malewitz said he has frequently discussed with them how his career has unfolded. They warn their brother about becoming dejected over losses or below average performances. But they also won’t let him become complacent with success. Their best advice is to keep working, Malewitz said.
"They call and say keep your head high," he said. "It’s always positive with them. They’ve also taught me that there is a lot more than just sports out there. We have these heart to heart talks."
Malewitz said one of the most important lessons he learned from his brothers is that leaders aren’t necessarily the ones who shout and scream the loudest. Malewitz said his brothers showed him another way to lead.
"I think I lead by example," he said. "It’s about doing the right thing both on and off the field."
While many high school athletes choose to compete in one sport in high school, Malewitz can’t imagine limiting his options.
"I love all of them. They’ve kept me busy and away from (bad) things," he said. "It’s kept me track in school. I have a passion for all three and that’s not something I want to give up."