Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
LANSING, Mich. - A fitting honor for a tremendous baseball man.
And an even better gentleman.
Central Michigan legend Dave Keilitz was inducted into the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday night in a ceremony during the Lansing Lugnuts baseball game with the Bowling Green Hot Rods at Cooley Law School Stadium.
Keilitz's plaque was unveiled in the hall, which is located above left and center field at the stadium. He was inducted along with Kalamazoo native Derek Jeter, and the two comprise the hall's fourth class. They join the likes of Al Kaline, Alan Trammell, Ernie Harwell, Ty Cobb and Kirk Gibson.
Keilitz now stands with many of the state's all-time great baseball names.
"It's pretty humbling. I'm not sure what my plaque's doing up there," Keilitz quipped. "When you see the past recipients that are in this Hall of Fame and then going in with Derek Jeter, who's a first-ballot hall-of-famer in Cooperstown in four years, it's really something special. Very humbling."
Keilitz, who was accompanied by his wife Sue, was joined by several longtime Chippewa supporters. A video tribute was played on the stadium scoreboard for both Keilitz and for Jeter, who did not attend the ceremony but delivered a personal video-taped message, during which he congratulated the longtime CMU coach.
Central Michigan alum Fred Heumann of WLNS in Lansing served as the master of ceremony.
Keilitz acknowledged and thanked all those in attendance and the hall committee. He also extended a special thanks to his former players, former longtime assistant and right-hand man and CMU coaching successor Dean Kreiener. Keilitz pointed out that he and Sue will celebrate their 53rd wedding anniversary next week.
"Central's given me every opportunity you could ever ask for," Keilitz said. "Coach Bill Theunissen recruited me to Central and he was my mentor for 56 years, right up until his passing a couple of years ago.
"The thing that probably means the most to me is the players and the coaches I had an opportunity to work with, Dean Kreiner for 14 years and then another 10 when I was athletic director. Because you don't get something like this without an awful lot of help along the way. The players deserve the credit for this. Both on and off the field they were just outstanding people."
Keilitz, a Midland native, played at Central Michigan from 1961-64, becoming the Chippewas' first baseball All-American as a senior. He took the reins of the program in 1971 and in 14 years built CMU into the Mid-American Conference's preeminent program.
Keilitz amassed a 453-203-6 career record and four times he was named the MAC Coach of the Year and six times he took the Chippewas to the NCAA Tournament. He had led CMU to four Mid-American Conference championships in a seven-year span before leaving the dugout after the '84 season to begin a 10-year run as the university's director of athletics.
From 1994-2004, Keilitz served as the executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association. In April, his uniform number (34) was retired and the field at Theunissen Stadium named in his honor and that of his family.
"You've got to have the support of the university," Keilitz said. "Central Michigan's always given great support to baseball and then it's a matter of hard work. You go out and you recruit. You recruit every day during the summer. You have somebody on the road all the time and you get the players and then it's the development of players. It's given the opportunity - great facilities, scholarships that are needed, and then you work hard, and you have success."
Keilitz is a member of five other halls of fame: The American Baseball Coaches Association, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Midland County, the Mid-American Conference and the Marcy Weston Central Michigan University.