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Denver Christian grads make an impact
By Ross Weener
Mark Jansen - click photo to enlarge image
Mark Jansen

From the doors of Denver Christian High School all the way to Calvin College is quite a trek—1,179 miles to be precise. This distance did not scare a group from Denver Christian who helped Calvin gain the 2002 MIAA crown and its second NCAA berth in three years. The Knights finished the regular season 28-13, setting a school record for most wins in a season. Even more unique is the diversity of those hailing from the Rocky Mountain State, as three are players, one a coach, and one the public address announcer at Calvin Field.

One of the most inspirational stories of the 2002 campaign revolved around tri-captain Mark Jansen. The 5-10 senior saw what most believed to be his season end after being hit by a pitch in an April 12 game with conference foe Adrian College. The pitch struck him on the right hand and sent him out of commission for nearly a month. Jansen returned in dramatic fashion for the biggest games of the year-a three game series with Hope College. Not only was it the Calvin-Hope series, but the Knights needed to win all three games to win the MIAA outright—and Jansen stepped up in a big way. His weekend statistics included a four-for-eight performance from the plate with two runs scored, and two runs batted in. The Knight second baseman showed his senior leadership by coming through with a pair of RBI singles in game one, lifting the Knights to a 10-3 victory on their way to the regular season-ending sweep of the Flying Dutchmen. Hope had entered the series unbeaten in the MIAA and riding a 26-game win streak. Jansen also sparkled defensively, helping turn a rare triple play in game one and throwing out a runner at the plate in the pivotal third game of the series which Calvin won 5-4.

"The first game against Hope was a storybook ending for me," says Jansen. "I was nervous because I didn't want to come back and not be beneficial to the team. I just wanted to get a hit, and I was fortunate enough to get three hits. I couldn't have asked for a better ending to my career by coming back to sweep the 'unbeatable' team and win the MIAA championship."

A true team player Jansen realizes the many aspects of what makes a winning team. "I just want to give all the credit to God, my teammates, and my coach. This team was one of the best teams I have played on and it was an amazing senior year."

The friendly voice heard time and again on the Calvin baseball public address system belongs to Jansen's roommate and fellow senior, Ernie Krauth. In his second year at the helm of the microphone for the Knights, Ernie has brought professionalism and good tunes to the likes of those in attendance at Calvin Field. For Krauth, the last two years has not been the only occasion that he has watched both Jansen and fellow senior baseball player James Cottier play, as he also watched them develop while playing at Denver Christian.

"I would say that my support for Mark and James has been consistent throughout the years," notes Krauth. "It has been an honor to see both of them mature as players and as men."

Krauth describes his relationship with Calvin head coach Jeff Pettinga as teamwork. "Coach provides the players with strategy to the game of baseball while I provide the entertainment and the professional manner to the fans. It really creates a true baseball experience, and this was our goal from the beginning."

Rounding out the trio of seniors from Denver Christian is right-handed reliever James Cottier. A transfer from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, Cottier appeared in eight games this season while garnering a 1-1 record overall. The 6-1 pitcher/first baseman had his best season in 2000 when he played in 16 games and finished the year with a .242 batting average and four RBI's while adding a .372 on-base percentage.

While at Benedictine, Cottier suffered a bout with mononucleosis and later transferred to Calvin. Cottier admits that he struggled with the adjustment in becoming a part-time player at Calvin. "While playing at Benedictine I was the big fish in the small pond, but I eventually got burned out. When I came to Calvin I was not used to be a 'role player' and it was one of the toughest trials of patience I have ever endured, but now I am stronger for it."

Now part of the graduated class of 2002 Cottier is not sure what he will do with his biology major. One option is working for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Colorado while another would be to continue his education in graduate school.

Assistant coach Tyler Amidon has done it all over the years. He has played under Coach Pettinga from 1990-1993 as a centerfielder, stayed on to serve as assistant coach from 1993-1996, left to coach Denver Christian from 1997-2001, and now is serving as the assistant coach for the Calvin baseball team once again.

Amidon saw his family's decision to move back to Grand Rapids as a great opportunity to get back into collegiate coaching. "After coaching at Calvin for three years I went out to Denver and coached there for five years, so I knew what it was like to coach in college, and then after five years in Denver I knew what it was like to coach in high school. So when coach Pettinga called me and told me things were changing here at Calvin in the assistant coaching department and with Grand Rapids having a cheaper cost of living, my wife and I jumped at the opportunity to move out here."

The youngest member of the group is Josh Vriesman. The 6'1 freshman held the starting spot at shortstop from wire-to-wire and led the Knights statistically in many offensive categories. Vriesman finished the year with a team leading .367 batting average and 15 RBI's. He was the team leader in hits (51), runs (31), and stolen bases (14). Also a member of the junior varsity basketball team, Vriesman showed his good hands and body control in the field committing only 15 errors in 171 chances.

The Denver native says he expects to win when he goes out on the field. "It is not that I take winning for granted, but I expect us (Calvin) to show up and do what it takes to get the victory. We came from a school (Denver Christian) that has a winning tradition, and we just want to carry that on here. Winning just makes baseball that much more fun."

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MIAA Champions
Calvin upsets Hope


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