Better late than never

 

Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate Manistee alumna Megan Vander Weele signs her national letter of intent to play softball, once again, at Muskegon Community College. With Megan are her new coach Kevin Dalson (seated), mother Karen Vander Weele and father Ross Vander Weele.

Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate
Manistee alumna Megan Vander Weele signs her national letter of intent to play softball, once again, at Muskegon Community College. With Megan are her new coach Kevin Dalson (seated), mother Karen Vander Weele and father Ross Vander Weele.

Manistee alumna finally signs letter to play college softball

MANISTEE — When any high-school athlete signs a letter of intent to play their sport at the next level, it invariably symbolizes the culmination of a lot of hard work and triumph over adversity.

For Megan Vander Weele, that road has been especially long and unusually arduous. Better late than never, the Manistee alumna finally got her signing ceremony.

Vander Weele signed her letter of intent Thursday to play softball at Muskegon Community College, surrounded in the usual way with her new coach and parents looking on.

But this signing meant just a bit more to her, since it represented a second chance that few athletes can claim.

After playing four years of varsity softball and graduating from Manistee High School in 2013, Vander Weele attended Muskegon Community College, took a redshirt year, and played one season for the Jayhawks the following year.

But she never got her signing ceremony, for reasons unknown to her.

“I was kind of wondering if I’d ever get one,” Vander Weele said. “I ended up singing my paper on the gym door. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, because I just wanted to play ball.”

After her redshirt year, Vander Weele suffered a torn rotator cuff, but played through the injury.

“It was just a small tear,” she said. “Enough to hurt, it really flared up at the end of the season.”

By then, the atmosphere in the Jayhawks softball program had grown toxic. Head coach Ryan Schalk left to take a job as an assistant at Grand Valley State University, throwing the program into chaos.

The combination of pain from the injury and the upheaval in the MCC program drove Vander Weele out of softball.

“It was kind of crazy with a lot of teammates, and a lot of change,” she said. “The coach had left, and then a different coach stepped in and left within a very short time. I don’t know her name, it was that quick.

“It was really hectic and crazy. Nothing was set in stone. So I just said that I didn’t want to do that for another year.”

Vander Weele’s road back began when MCC hired Kevin Dalson as its new head coach. Dalson knew Vander Weele, having coached her in travel softball back in high school.

Dalson got the ball rolling almost inadvertently, when he called Vander Weele inquiring about one of her former Chippewa teammates.

“Then he said, ‘Don’t you have a year of eligibility left?’ It just happened from there,” Vander Weele said. “I was thinking about it, but then he asked.”

Dalson said that Vander Weele will be a key part of his team from the moment she steps on the diamond, and not just because of her skills. Few community college coaches have the luxury of bringing in a veteran player, fewer still ones with whom they are so familiar.

“I know what she meant to the team I coached before,” Dalson said. “I know what kind of player she is and the kind of teammate she is. Above and beyond what she’s going to bring from a production standpoint she will bring the guidance for the younger players, and there is a lot of value to that.”

So Vander Weele will finally have the career at MCC that she envisioned as a high-school senior. And she finally got her signing ceremony in the bargain.

“I’m going to finish something that I started,” she said. “A lot of people don’t get a second chance like this. When you walk away from something, most times you’re done. I’m lucky to have this opportunity.”

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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