It's an hour before a routine practice on a warm Monday afternoon. The JV team is spread along the right field foul line stretching and throwing as their practice gets under way.
Mallard Creek head coach Shawn McGeorge is making his way to the field, but before he can get there, a car pulls up. Out steps a kid who confidently strolls to the dugout, shakes hands with the assistant coach and says a quick hello to some of the players gathered for practice.
For Mikal Hill, the Mavericks do-everything shortstop, the baseball field is where he feels at home. He has had a baseball in his hand since he can remember, and loves to play the game. He is pretty good at it, too.
Hill, the reigning I-Meck Player of the Year, is hitting over .500 for the year. He has hit three home runs, driven in 15 runs, scored 26 more and anchored the defense for the Mavericks.
"He is just one of those people. He is just as good on the field as he is off it," McGeorge said. "Most of his accolades come on the field, but as a person and as a student and classmate, he is one of the best ambassadors we could possibly have at a school. He does it the right way and is humble and a good person and great player."
Hill has been the steady influence on a team that is full of talent. Senior Brandon Wilkerson, classmate Blaine Lewis, junior Jamel Harbison and sophomore Kyle Bynum could start on most area teams, but it is Hill who makes everything go for the Mavericks (13-5, 8-3 in the I-Meck).
"We have really strong batters one through nine in the lineup," said Hill. "I feel like this year they are pitching around me some because I have drawn a few more walks, but with guys hitting around me they are going to have to take their chances with all of us."
McGeorge says Hill is not an average star high school player. He said Hill is the best player he has ever been around, but Hill doesn't let it go to his head.
"You see Mikal at school and he is just one of the guys," McGeorge said. "If you don't know who he is, Mikal is just a nice kid who does great in school, is popular and respectful to everyone."
Many of the showcases Hill attends say he is a five-tool talent, which is the highest praise for a prospect. The five tools refer to a player being able to hit for power, hit for average, possess great speed and instincts on the bases, can field his position and has a great arm.
McGeorge sees those talents, but goes one step further.
"The work ethic and the talent is there. I see him playing baseball for a long time. He is smart in the classroom, but also in baseball intelligence," McGeorge said.
"I would say he is not a five-tool player, but he has the sixth tool, which is his smarts. He is always in the right place and puts himself where he needs to be in all situations."
Hill, who committed after his sophomore season to South Carolina, carries a 4.2 GPA, and although he says he slacked off a little as a senior, is still making all As.
He said the Gamecocks, who won the NCAA baseball championship last year, showed the most personal attention to him and seemed like the best fit.
"It is really cool that I am going to play for the national champions next year. It makes me want to work as hard as I can to contribute, and I can't wait to get on the field," Hill said.
Hill should star at South Carolina next year, if he is not given a signing bonus he can't pass up after June's amateur Major League Baseball draft. The question is not if Hill will be drafted, but where and which team will pick him. Mock drafts have him going anywhere from the third round to the eighth.
"My dad and I have talked about it some," Hill said. "What happens after the draft is my decision. I have put some thought into it, but haven't given it too much consideration yet. To me, I will take it when it comes and it isn't worth thinking about until it happens."
Hill has the pedigree to succeed. His father played in the Pirates organization and his brother, Alex, is a senior outfielder at UNC Wilmington.
Hill will probably have a decision to make after the June MLB draft, but for now his focus is on his Mallard Creek team. Hill knows nothing lasts forever, but is excited to see how far baseball can take him.
From what he's seen of Hill, McGeorge knows his shortstop has a bright future.
"He has such a strong work ethic and holds himself to a very high standard," said McGeorge. "The sky is the limit for Mikal."