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Roller-coaster ride for senior outfielder
By Colin McWhertor
Terry O'Neal (Muskegon, Mich.)

Terry O’Neal has seen the ups and downs of Calvin baseball. O’Neal’s first year on the team — 2001 — followed an MIAA championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament. Expectations were high for the team, but O’Neal, as a freshman, did not see a lot of playing time, playing primarily in the infield. “I had a poor year; I only played in a few games and still made three or four errors,” he said. In 2002, O’Neal joined the starting lineup as the leftfielder and has been a key part of the program ever since.

O’Neal, a Muskegon native, used a strong spring break to cement himself into the starting lineup by the time the MIAA season started. His speed and batting average made him the perfect batter at the top of the Knights lineup. “I was surprised to be placed in the lead-off spot,” said O’Neal, “I didn’t consider myself a typical lead-off hitter. I was so excited to be a part of that great team, it didn’t matter where I played or how much.” O’Neal finished the season with a .329 batting average, scored 30 runs, stole 13 bases, and had 14 runs batted in — which included two home runs. O’Neal’s first season as a starter was a success as he helped the Knights reclaim the MIAA championship.

During the next season, the Knights struggled through an 8-27 season and finished sixth in the league standings. O’Neal struggled along with the team as his averages dipped in many offensive categories. O’Neal was still able to lead the Knights in on-base percentage and runs scored, but his batting average slipped to .276 with a late-season hitting slump.

This year, O’Neal was again looking to jumpstart the Knights’ offense. He stepped up and became a leader on and off the field. He batted .314 while again leading the team in on-base percentage; he also scored 24 runs and swiped 11 bases. O’Neal played through a wrist injury from being hit by a pitch and a stomach virus during the season while helping the team improve on its record by seven wins from the year before.

O’Neal was impressed by how the team stuck together this past season. “When we won the league, the team unity was high, but when we started losing in 2003, we all started blaming each other. This year, the unity was great among the guys; we were all happy to work hard and improve from last year.”

While his athletic ability was appreciated, most of O’Neal’s teammates liked him most for his humorous personality. O’Neal often was the first to crack a joke on a teammate or pull a prank, making everyone feel comfortable. “I always tried to lighten the load and lift some spirits during games, especially if we were losing,” he said.

O’Neal will return to Calvin for the fall semester to finish his major in mathematics, hoping to graduate in December. His future plans include looking into a career as a statistician or an actuary.