Sports Shorts Grand Rapids related Baseball Story

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Sports Shorts Grand Rapids related Baseball Story

  1. 1. SPORTS SHORTS: Western Michigan University coach, Suds recruited John VanderWal March 28, 2009 09:00AM Published Mar. 28, 2009. It was a beautiful baseball day in May, 1984. Western Michigan University baseball coach Fred Decker invited me to accompany him and observe the recruiting of John VanderWal, an outstanding athlete in the sleepy town of Hudsonville. We arrived on the scene following a Detroit Tiger scout who was working to sign the slugging outfielder. VanderWal had a batting stance an almost carbon copy of the wide stance of the world famous Boston Red Sox Ted Williams. Both of them were left-handed hitters. VanderWal is an only child. His mother and father were not excited about young John, (father also named John) hitting the minor league trail to the major leagues. They preferred the Western Michigan University route. His mother was emphatic in saying, quot;We prefer he play three years at Western where we can see most of the games.quot; She was a bank employee and able to get off work in time to see almost every home game on the schedule and many of the road trips. She and husband John, who owns his own business, were able to get away for many of the games including the annual trek to Tiger Town in Lakeland, Fla. The slugging outfielder turned out to be everything Decker expected, signed at the end of his junior year and played 14 seasons in the major leagues before retiring in 2004. His best season was with Pittsburgh in 2000 when he hit for an average of .299, slammed 24 home runs, and 94 RBIs. He is married to Deb (a Western Michigan Alumni) and living in Grand Rapids. They have two children. He and his business partner Jim Cox operate their company, PriorityHR, a successful Human Resource Outsourcing Firm in Grand Rapids, MI. The game never really leaves the life of such an established player and arguably Major League Baseballs best pinch hitter of the modern era. He recently took up the Sandiego Padres calls for assistance in evaluating players as a scout during spring training. The organization is fond of John and allows flexibility for his family and business during the 4-6 weeks commitment. VanderWal's 14 years in the major leagues included stints with Cincinnati, Colorado, Milwaukee, Montreal, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh and San Diego.

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