Softball Complex Dedicated

Former Coach Vickie Van Kleek is honored

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  • The press box in the new softball complex overlooks the field.

  • The new softball complex provides an abundance of new seating.

  • Vickie Van Kleek, front left, takes time with fomer players for a shot in front of the new softball complex.

  • Former players give Vickie Van Kleek a lift during the softball dedication ceremony.

  • Vickie Van Kleek speaks to the crowd during the softball complex dedication.

  • Current Panther softball coach Gerald Culler gives his former mentor a hug during the dedication.

  • Vickie Van Kleek is all smiles as she visits with former players during the softball complex dedication ceremony.

  • Former players all donned Van Kleek-style wigs for the dedication.

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Refentse Maselwa, Staff Writer

A home run for Panther softball.

The Vickie Van Kleek softball complex is complete and ready for the team to play games and have the space for their supporters.

“It’s hard to imagine that our softball field was in the middle of campus and portable,” said Julia Thomas, former women’s softball player.

The college recognized its former head softball coach Vickie Van Kleeck, on Sat., March 25, by naming the new softball complex in her honor. The facility is two-stories and includes a team locker room, a coaches’ locker room, a working press box, a concession stand, and restrooms. Seating for supporters includes chair backs and open-area concrete platforms between the building and the backstop.

“I want everyone to take a minute and take it in. Back then softball was an afterthought,” said Thomas.

More than 100 people were in attendance at the dedication ceremony, including Ferrum softball alum. They reminisced on how far the sport has come.

The players used to use flagging tapes to outline the field, and players used to have to pick up rocks–a glove full before practice each day. Thomas joked that the field being in the middle of campus was a great attendance strategy. There were many challenges, but under Van Kleek, softball had 531 wins, 140 academic all-conference players, and 11 conference players.

“We all know that Vickie is passionate and loves the game of softball. She brought a competitive attitude to Ferrum, and that is something we try to continue,” praised Gerald Culler, softball head coach.

The expression goes: “Give someone their flowers while they can still smell them”, and that is exactly what everyone at the dedication did. Interim President Mirta Martin applauded Van Kleek for her many years of hard work here and for embodying the college motto of “Not Self But Others”.

“Vickie has not only marked years of excellence, but most importantly she led the way for others,’’ proclaimed Martin.

Yet even with all the praise and her accolades, Van Kleek was humble in her remarks. She said that one does not expect a complex to be named after them, and she felt deeply honored.

“This day feels surreal,” she said.

She talked about the difficulties that softball had and how there was not even a true field for the team.

“When I came to interview for this position, the field was where the Hillcrest apartments are; there were no apartment dorms. And when I sat behind the home plate watching the team play, I couldn’t see the left fielders feet,” reminisced Van Kleek.

She overcame many adversities, and her teams won many games. 

“The field we had was lopsided and had a phone line running across it. The conference put restrictions on our playing field so we had to travel to Franklin County high school to play,” Van Kleek said.

Director of Athletics, John Sutyak commended Van Kleek on her humility and selflessness. Sutyak said Van Kleek is an inspiration to everyone around her, and  he also said it was difficult to convince her that she was getting the complex named after her.

“I hate the word ‘deserves’, because Vickie Van Kleek not only deserves the dedication, she earned it,” proclaimed Sutyak.

“For those of you know Ferrum’s motto of ‘Not Self But Others’–I want that to be the highlight of what I say today because this is not about me. This is about everybody who joined me through this journey. There is now a facility worthy of this program,” Van Kleek said modestly.

The hard work of Van Kleek and prior softball players has paved the way for the current players to enjoy the new complex, and they are grateful to have the opportunity.

“We are all super excited to play in a stadium,” Breanna Weaver, junior softball player, said.