.169

vanotterloo

“I’m not really sure we knew you would be an all-conference player,” I said.

“I’m not sure I knew I was either,” he said.

.169

That was the batting average Colton Van Otterloo had as a college freshman for the Defender baseball team.

Now, Colton’s not the first person to struggle when they hit the next level, nor, will he be the last.

He could have easily been satisfied and waited till the next season and gotten similar results.  He could have easily blamed someone or come up with excuses.  None of which he did.

It begs the question.

How do you go from .169 to three straight years of over .300 and escalating numbers/averages each successive year?

Well, quick hands certainly help. 

But there’s more to it than that–many have quick hands.

Hard work gives you a chance.  Doesn’t mean it will happen, but, without some hard work you’ve got no chance.  

Here’s the most telling stat to me.

As a freshman at Dordt Colton had ZERO extra base hits.

ZERO.

After that freshman year 47 of his 134 hits from 2016-2018 were extra base hits.  That’s a .559 slugging percentage.

Oh, and for those of you who think his sole focus was baseball, he qualified for NAIA Scholar-Athlete status (3.5 cume GPA or better) and is married. 

What do I take away from all this?

If you’re going to do something—pursue a degree, excel in music, improve in your athletic endeavors, get married, strengthen your faith, dive in and get to work. 

Talking about something doesn’t replace going out and doing it.

mbyk

Freshman year of Dordt baseball is a year that I often try to avoid when asked about.

In high school, starting was normal and offensive production came naturally.

However, all of that changed when moving on to college. I soon realized how much of a difference there was between high school and college baseball. Pitchers threw harder and had better off-speed; fielders covered more ground and had stronger arms; and hitters had more power and quickness on the base paths.

Pitchers threw harder and had better off-speed; fielders covered more ground and had stronger arms; and hitters had more power and quickness on the base paths.

My first year I had a batting average of .169 and played mostly as an infielder due to team injuries. Looking back, this was the worst year of baseball I had ever experienced both in performance and social aspects; but it changed me as a player.

After my freshman season was over, I made it my personal goal to improve myself as a baseball player; in order to prove people wrong and make baseball fun again.

Hard work and determination

The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college I spent a lot of nights in my parent’s basement lifting weights in order to improve myself physically. I weighed roughly 175lbs at the time and was able to put on five  pounds over that summer.

My sophomore year of baseball rolled around, and I soon began to see the results. Sophomore season gave me a taste of success, a taste that empowered me to put in more off-season work than I had ever done before.

Sophomore season gave me a taste of success, a taste that empowered me to put in more off-season work than I had ever done before.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years was one I will never forget. I purchased a membership at a local weight room which granted me 24/7 access via key card. Looking back to that summer, I remember working until after supper, going home to change and eat, and then heading to the weight room around 10:00.

I remember working until after supper, going home to change and eat, and then heading to the weight room around 10:00.

I did this four nights a week sometimes five depending on my schedule. That summer I put on another 10 pounds allowing me to reach a physical state in which I would be able to compete.

As athletes, we need to continue to strive to improve ourselves over the offseason. I find that this is the most important time of the year to make improvements to one’s performance capabilities.

Mental Game

Often, I will hear coaches mention the importance of the mental game. This can be described as a player’s ability to focus and stay locked in throughout the duration of an entire baseball game.

We can also relate this to one’s ability to learn from the game: knowing different situations and how to act and react accordingly.

Coming into college, I believe I could be described like most high school baseball players: lacking. Over the years, due to the amount of games, situations, and experiences the mental game made more and more sense to me. Obviously, this is an area that takes a lifetime to master if at all, but more knowledge of the mental game has allowed me to play the game at a higher level.

Over the years, due to the amount of games, situations, and experiences the mental game made more and more sense to me.

This is often the most overlooked area by players.

We often think our mental game is good enough without actually realizing what improving it can do for us.

Inspirational Teammates and Coaches

Finally, I have been blessed with playing alongside of and under some amazing players and coaches. I have played alongside of some of what I know to be the best baseball players in Dordt’s history, who have taught and instructed me every step of the way.

There is nothing more that increases one’s confidence than teammates and coaches who trust and believe in you every step of the way. The best teams are packed full of people like this, and it shows both on and off the field.

In the end, I would say that hard work, determination, improved knowledge of the mental game, and inspirational teammates and coaches all together combined have allowed me to take my confidence as a baseball player to a new level.

In the end, I would say that hard work, determination, improved knowledge of the mental game, and inspirational teammates and coaches all together combined have allowed me to take my confidence as a baseball player to a new level.

I thank God for the talents and gifts he has blessed me with and realize nothing would be possible without Him.

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