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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2007 > Heavy-Hitter: Little League Graduate Julian Vandervelde Grows from World Series Slugger to Collegiate Blocker

Heavy-Hitter: Little League Graduate Julian Vandervelde Grows from World Series Slugger to Collegiate Blocker

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Oct. 9, 2007) – At 12 years old, Julian Vandervelde was a power-hitting first baseman for Davenport (Iowa) East Little League in the 2000 Little League Baseball World Series. Now 20, Vandervelde is a starting offensive lineman for the University of Iowa football team. Despite his youth, growing up around sports and excelling athletically and academically, this young man has developed a keen understanding and appreciation for the slim margin separating failure from success.
Julian Vandervelde, middle, played in the 2000 Little League Baseball World Series for Davenport East Little League from Iowa. At 12 years of age, Julian stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 231 pounds, making him one of the largest players to participate in the World Series. Now 20, Julian (No. 63) is a 6-foot-3, 295-pound offensive guard for the University of Iowa.

Playing in the final World Series before the tournament expanded from eight to 16 teams, Julian was aware even then of how special an accomplishment it was to be playing against Little League’s elite teams.

“The Little League World Series was a special experience that taught me about perseverance,” Vandervelde, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound right guard, said. “When I look at my old baseball glove that I wore in the World Series, I have the same sense of pride that I get now when I am putting on my Hawkeye football helmet and jersey.”

During Davenport East’s run to the World Series Vandervelde learned about camaraderie and what Little League can mean to a town. From the parents traveling to practices and games, to the excitement when the team won, he became aware of what it means to strive for a common goal.

Representing the Central Region, the common goal for the Davenport East team was to win the World Series. What Vandervelde said his team learned from the experience is, it’s more about the journey and the challenges faced and overcome in getting there, than actually winning the world championship.

“When I was a kid, it was a strange feeling playing at the World Series in front of thousands of people after playing the same game a few weeks earlier in front of just my family and other moms and dads,” Vandervelde, who recently celebrated his 20th birthday, said. “Now that I am playing football on Saturdays in front of thousands of fans, it’s the same type of feeling.”

At 6-foot-2 and 231 pounds, Vandervelde was an imposing figure when he helped the Davenport East Little League team go 20-4 in the summer of 2000. In the 54th Little League World Series, the Central Region champions posted a 2-2 record, losing 8-0, to the South Region champion from Bellaire, Texas, in the United States championship game.

In the Series, Vandervelde hit .417 (5-for-12), with a home run, two runs batted in, one stolen base, and three runs scored.

Like many of the teams that reach the World Series, the road to Williamsport is often as thrilling as the games. Equally exciting is meeting players from different parts of the world.

For Vandervelde and his teammates, sharing moments with the team from Musachi Fuchu Little League in Tokyo, Japan, were special.

“Our team and the Japanese kids got along really well,” Vandervelde said. “When we played Texas, they were cheering for us. They kept yelling something in Japanese. We found out later they were saying, ‘fight on, fight on.’ ”

Japan lost the International final that year, but before both teams went home they played a “friendship game.”

Vandervelde still has some mementos from his World Series experience. In a case in his room at home he has the home run ball he hit in his first World Series game. He also still has his World Series jersey. His parents, John and Cynthia, have a collection of pictures from their visit to Williamsport.

After graduating from the Little League program he wrestled, played baseball and football, and was a member of the track and field team through middle school and high school. In his senior year at Davenport’s Central High, Vandervelde was voted captain of the football team and earned first-team all-state honors. In his junior and senior years he also was the Iowa Class 4A state shot put champion.

Earning three varsity letters as an offensive and defensive lineman on the Central High School football team, Vandervelde was recruited by several colleges and universities, including Michigan and Stanford. He decided to stay in-state and play for the Hawkeyes on a full athletic scholarship.

“After Little League, I was dead set on playing baseball in high school,” Vandervelde said. “My mother got me into Little League and I played from Tee Ball until I was 12. When I got into middle school and high school, I decided I wanted to play as many sports as I could.”

This season, the red-shirt freshman started Iowa’s first three games at offensive guard. He missed one game because of injury, but returned to play against Big Ten Conference opponent Penn State on Oct. 6.

“This year we caught some of the Little League World Series games on ESPN,” Vandervelde said. “Playing in the Little League World Series still gives me inspiration to always do my best, and while watching the games I’d share some stories with my current teammates.

“That team and the World Series experience is something I’ll always hold dear,” he said.

 

In the 2000 Little League Baseball World Series, Julian Vandervelde played first base for the Central Region champions from Davenport (Iowa) East Little League. He hit .417, with a home run, two runs batted in, three runs scored and a stolen base.