By JEFF FEBUS
Calvin senior Trevor Van Duyn is familiar with having an athletics season cut short. He's also familiar with the road to bouncing back.
On March 13, Calvin and the rest of the MIAA schools officially canceled a 2020 spring season that had just gotten underway due to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world. Athletes at Calvin were among thousands around the country that saw their seasons come to a halt as schools and conferences at all levels canceled the remainder of the spring 2020 athletics calendar. The announcement was heartbreaking to spring sports athletes that had worked tirelessly for the upcoming campaign, particularly seniors headed into their final season of collegiate competition.
The Calvin baseball team had opened its season with a 3-0 record, marking its best start to a season since 2008. A senior captain, Van Duyn was the No. 1 starter on a Calvin pitching staff. He opened the year with a complete-game win in a 13-3 victory over Oberlin College on March 6, striking out eight batters and walking only one. That marked his first and last start of the season.
Just four years prior, however, the young righthander also saw his senior year of baseball wiped out in an instant.
A two-sport standout in basketball and baseball at nearby Jenison High School, Van Duyn was a starting guard on the varsity basketball team and a starting infielder and pitcher on the baseball team. In the middle of his final high school basketball season, he suffered a serious knee injury, ending his basketball and baseball seasons.
"When he first injured his knee we weren't sure of the severity, but after he was examined we found out it was going to be a 12-month recovery," said his father Kevin Van Duyn, who at the time was the athletics director at Jenison High School. "As a father, that's always a tough thing to hear."
According to Trevor, the injury turned out to be a growing experience. "It was hard to sit and watch my teammates play," said Trevor. "Growing up I played every sport that I was able to and I never had a serious injury. As I got to high school I focused on basketball and baseball. I loved to be out on the court or on the field. As a young athlete you have this feeling that it will last forever. When I suffered the injury, I realized that wasn't true and I had to appreciate every moment I was given."
While sitting on the sidelines, he began to appreciate other things as well. "I learned the values of being a good teammate," said Trevor. "I saw how important it was to encourage my teammates and also let them know what I saw out on the field while I was watching them."
When it came time to choose a college to attend, Trevor had several local options but ultimately chose Calvin – the school where his father Kevin and his mother Kim both graduated. From 1984-1987, his father was a two-sport star for the Knights. He started at point guard on the men's basketball team and at second base on the baseball team where he earned All-America honors twice.
"I know with some people, following in the steps of your parents can be a bit of a road block," said Trevor, "but for me it never was. Calvin is so important to my family and I always wanted to be like my parents, not different."
Trevor was recruited by both former Calvin men's basketball coach Kevin Vande Streek and Calvin baseball coach John Rypel and he had plans to play both sports like his father. During the fall of his opening semester, he realized he needed to focus on one. "My knee still didn't have the same explosion that it had before the injury," he said. "I knew then I would have to focus on baseball and most likely only as a pitcher because that was all my body could take at the time."
Despite pitching on a reconstructed knee, Van Duyn made his mark as a freshman, leading the Knights in saves (6) and appearances (19) while also helping Calvin reach the MIAA Tournament semifinals, pitching seven innings in a tough 2-1 tournament loss to Kalamazoo.
He took things a step further as a sophomore in 2018, tossing a team-high 77 innings. During the season he served as a starter and a relief pitcher. Van Duyn started the opener of four-game MIAA conference series. He then provided closer duties out of the bullpen in game four. He finished the year with four victories and three saves while earning a spot on the All-MIAA Second Team. His overall total innings pitched ranks third on the Calvin single-season list.
Last year brought a new twist to Van Duyn's career as his father took over the reins as Calvin head baseball coach.
"I was thrilled when he became our head coach," said Trevor. "He had been my AD when I was in high school, so I was used to having him around like that. It's been awesome to have him around every day and as my head coach."
In his first year pitching for his father's Calvin team, Trevor went 5-2 on the mound while again leading the team in innings pitched (65.2) while earning a second straight nod to the All-MIAA Second Team.
His pitching motion includes a unique hanging sidearm delivery that lessens the wear-and-tear on his arm. "It's a delivery we started working on when he was about 12 years old," said Kevin. "We set it up to lessen the strain on his arm because we knew he wanted to pitch and play in the field."
The strategy has worked according to Trevor. "I guess you could say I have a rubber arm," he said. "I've been blessed not to have any serious injuries to my arm, elbow, or shoulder. I try to go out and help my team whenever I get a chance."
Whenever he has taken the mound, it brings a small pang of nervousness according to his father. "Anyone who tells you that they don't get a little nervous when their son goes out to pitch isn't completely telling the truth, but as a head coach you do have to do your best to put it aside," said Kevin. "I also know that every time he takes the mound he gives our team a great chance to win and that he will do anything he can to support his teammates. That's a great feeling to have both as a head coach and as a father."
It also gives Kevin the opportunity to be around his son on a regular basis. "We'll meet up after practice just to go out and grab a bite to eat and talk about life," said Kevin. "That's been a real blessing, and there is not a day that goes by that I take that extra time to spend time with him for granted."
In addition, Trevor is able to spend time with his grandfather Harold Van Duyn who serves as a volunteer assistant coach with the Calvin baseball program. "Trevor and my dad are very close," said Kevin. "My dad has some health struggles and I know that has been hard on Trevor but having the chance to spend time together through Calvin baseball is great for both of them."
In the classroom, Trevor is majoring in physical education with the hopes of becoming a teacher and a coach after graduation. His initial career path was in business and sports administration but with the change in academic majors, he will need to return for his fifth year to complete his classwork and student teaching. The change in academic majors has turned into a blessing in disguise as he will be able to use his final year of collegiate eligibility in baseball with the NCAA providing an extra year of eligibility to all spring sports athletes due to the COVID-19 crisis.
"I was planning on becoming a student coach with our men's basketball and baseball teams next year but I'll have to rethink that plan now because I plan to play baseball," said Trevor. "It's bittersweet because this (2020 team) was the most talented team I have been on in my four years at Calvin. There will never be another 2020 Calvin baseball team. I know other teams can say the same thing. It's hard, but at the same time I know there are bigger challenges for our world right now."
With another year ahead of him, he also credits the work that Calvin pitching coach Dan Taylor has put in with him. "Coach Taylor is the best pitching coach I have ever been around," said Trevor. "I have learned so much from him, both from a mental and a physical standpoint. He's pitched at the Division I and professional levels and has so much knowledge. As long as he is around our pitching staff will be in great hands."
And Trevor may become an inspiring coach himself. "I have no doubt that Trevor will be a great coach someday," said his father Kevin. "He is a student of the game and is very relatable to players. His teammates highly respect him because of his love for the game that shows up every day he comes to practice or puts on the uniform."