By bunt or bean, Van Alten finds himself on first—often
Friday, June 01, 2012
By Mark DeHaan
“Third basemen (around the league) will be glad when he graduates,” said men’s athletic director Jim Timmer, about Calvin baseball senior Jake Van Alten. Van Alten, a four-year starter in the outfield, is a bunt specialist. Continued Timmer: “He’s got 400 at-bats in his Calvin career, and I think he has squared to bunt in about 350 of them.”
Van Alten, of Douglas, Mich., is a graduate of Holland Christian High School. Van Alten came to Calvin and was immediately inserted into the starting lineup. “I was very fortunate my freshman year to have an immediate impact on the team,” said Van Alten. “I used my bunting ability to my advantage my freshman year and did whatever I could to move runners over and turn the lineup over for our best hitters. I started in left field but pulled my hamstring early on in the season. Once that healed and I was able to play again, I made the switch to right field. I didn’t mind moving around the outfield at all; I was just happy to be in the starting lineup.”
Van Alten was in the lineup primarily for his defense, but he continued to work on his hitting and continued to make strides. “As I progressed through my sophomore and junior year I tried to take on more responsibility offensively. I still used my bunting to my advantage, but I worked a lot on my swing and improved it tremendously.”
Although Van Alten has continued to improve on his offense, defense has been what he has prided himself in. “(Defense) has always been my top priority. I never really had a lot of power at the plate, and I had the mindset that I was going to get on base no matter what, so other guys in the lineup could score me.”
Van Alten remembers practices in high school where his team practiced getting on base—but not in the way one would expect. “I can remember practicing getting hit by pitches in high school, and ever since those few painful practices I have led every team I‘ve been on in hit-by-pitches. Some guys don’t like to get hit by pitches—I see it as a free pass to get on base.”
It was no different this year with Van Alten taking “the free pass” seven times.
“Jake is the consummate leader by example. He’s soft spoken, but he always plays hard, always plays the right way—he’s just been a really solid player on and off the field,” said coach John Sparks. “He’s a great example to the younger guys of how to play.”
During his junior year, Van Alten batted .325 at the plate with seven stolen bases while earning a spot on the All-MIAA second team. He started in 148 games during his career, committing just six errors in four years as a starting outfielder.
Van Alten graduated with a degree in sports management and a minor in business. “Sports have always been a passion of mine, so ideally I’d like to work for a professional sports team, particularly for the Chicago Cubs since I am a big fan,” said Van Alten. “I’d like to work in the front offices of a sports team doing anything from marketing to handling operation issues. If I don’t end up working for a sports team, I can also see myself working for a company in a marketing or advertising role.”
Although the Knights struggled this season (15-25), Van Alten realizes the importance that his education and teamwork had over the success of the team. Van Alten appreciates these things, as well as the relationships he built: “Despite the lack of success we had this season,” he said, “it was still a lot of fun to be around my teammates and coaches every day and strengthening those relationships.”