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Utility player has variety of gifts
By Jeff Febus

When Sam Ehlert begins a new role as a youth pastor later this summer, she will feel well-trained.

A graduate of Calvin this past May, Ehlert developed her leadership training as a member of the Calvin softball team the past four years and as a leader in the Calvin Barnabas Team the past two years.

Sam EhlertAs a softball player, Ehlert served as a senior captain this spring. As a member of the Barnabas Team—a group responsible for promoting Christian growth among the student body at Calvin—she served as a spiritual mentor to students in the Calvin dormitories.

“My four years at Calvin have been amazing,” said Ehlert, who hails from Rockford, Mich. “I’m definitely going to miss this place, but it has also prepared me for the future.”

That future includes relocating to Nashville, Tenn., with her soon-to-be husband and recent Calvin grad Andrew Tidball. Also a native of Rockford, Tidball has accepted a research position with Vanderbilt University while working toward his doctorate in biochemistry.

“We’ve known each other since we were 10 years old playing Little League baseball and softball,” Ehlert said with a laugh. “But it wasn’t until we were both at Calvin working in a group together that we started dating. It’s quite a fun story.”

When considering colleges, Ehlert sought a Christian college with a chance to play softball. “I wanted to go to a college where the softball team was competitive, the players had fun and most of all, the team honored God,” she said. “Calvin fit in all three categories for me.”

Over the next four years, Ehlert was the ultimate utility player, sometimes seeing time in the infield, sometimes in the outfield and sometimes at catcher.

This spring, she split time between the outfield and catcher, usually playing left field in the first game of a doubleheader and then moving behind the plate for game two. Despite the position shuffle, Ehlert managed to post a .946 fielding percentage with only four errors. At the plate, she batted .268 and recorded a team-high 11 sacrifice hits.

“I think catcher was my most stable position, but I was willing to move around wherever I could help the team,” she said, adding that it was difficult, at times, to play more than one position, “but I have also been playing different positions since I was young. Plus the coaching staff had the confidence in me to play at different spots on the field.”

Serving as senior captain this spring also brought a new perspective for Ehlert: “It put me in more of an authority position with the players and helped me see the game with a new light.”

First-year head coach Emily Bustrum led this year’s coaching staff. “Coach Bustrum was very enthusiastic, and that was a very good thing for our team,” Ehlert said. “This team has a ways to go in terms of wins and losses, but some great seeds were planted this spring. I see a lot of positive things happening in the future.”

A communications major with a minor in youth ministry at Calvin, Ehlert is grateful for the mentorship and instruction she received as a student. “People like [Professor] Robert Nordling in the music department and [adviser] Lynn Elliott in the education department played huge roles in helping me grow as a leader with the Barnabas program,” said Ehlert, who credits her communication arts and sciences classes with being pivotal, particularly in learning about how the mass media works in youth culture. “That instruction will be invaluable to me when I start working with a church.”

Ehlert’s experience at the 2006 Gainey Athletic Retreat was also invaluable. “The Gainey retreat was great,” Ehlert said of the weeklong session in Glen, Mont., that trains and equips highly capable leaders with the necessary skills to positively affect Calvin. “It was just an awesome opportunity to learn from Calvin coaches and from other Calvin athletes how to be a Christian leader with our teams.”

After relocating to Nashville this summer, Ehlert will be matched up with a church through the Nashville Center for Youth Ministry. “I’m really looking forward to the opportunity,” she said. “I’m looking forward to what God has in store for me.”