Aug. 10, 2010
- 2010 Hawkeye Football Fall Camp Central
- 2010 UI Football Media Fact Book
- 2010 UI Football Media Guide
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
- Take the Hawkeyes with You: Iowa Podcasts
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPhone app!
- Iowa Football wallpaper
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Football fans can smell that it’s that time of year again. But before the shoe drops on college football’s opening kick, the boys of summer must deliver the first pitch of the 2010 Little League World Series.
For one Hawkeye, that moment is a not-so-distant memory.
Long before Julian Vandervelde was dominating the trenches in Big Ten country, the Davenport, Iowa-native was leading a caravan of players and families to Williamsport, Pa., where he and his Davenport East teammates represented the Midwest in the Mecca of little league baseball.
“We had a lot of fun and we were really successful,” Vandervelde says of his trip through district, state and regional finals en route to the 2000 Little League World Series.
Successful indeed. Batting clean-up and picking balls at first base, Vandervelde was part of an Iowa team that finished as the U.S. runner-up, one game short of playing for the Little League World Series title. It represented the highest finish for an Iowa team in the history of the Little League World Series.
“We made it to the United States final but eventually lost to Texas,” Vandervelde said. “It was a good run and an experience I’ll never forget.”
The experience also provided an opportunity to shine on the national stage. Before anyone had ever heard of the Big Ten Network and before experiencing the media exposure he’s come to expect playing for the Hawkeyes, Vandervelde and his Davenport East teammates were making plays on ESPN.
“It was insane,” Vandervelde said of the television audience. “Being a 12-year-old kid, we had no idea what it was we were walking in to. Being on national TV was nice, but we didn’t know we were on TV until we arrived and saw the cameras.”
“When you’re playing in the Orange Bowl, you’re playing for the whole Hawkeye nation, your family and friends and your teammates. There’s a lot there and there’s no better feeling. At the same time, the Little League World Series is something very special and something I’ll never forget.”
UI senior left guard
The same cannot be said about his current teammates, who open the 2010 season ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, and are expected to compete each Saturday under a national microscope.
“Back then we were just kids playing a game and there’s really not that much pressure on you when you’re just a kid playing a game,” Vandervelde said. “It’s certainly more intense now because I understand what it is that I’m here for. There is a lot more that I’m playing for.”
The experiences are not without similarities, however. Vandervelde recalls his parents making the trip every step along the way to Williamsport, just as they have done for each of Iowa’s postseason appearances since their son became a Hawkeye in 2006.
“My mom was pregnant with my little sister at the time, but they were still able to travel to the games,” Vandervelde said. “It was really nice having them there. It was a little slice of home. They’re still able to get out and support me today. They have been to every bowl game and many of the away games. Any time they can get off work they’ll be there.”
Vandervelde is quick to mention, that it has been a pleasure to be part of both teams.
“Playing for the Hawkeyes is a ton of fun, but compared to being a 12-year-old kid, I have a lot more responsibility now,” Vandervelde said. “Back then you were on a national stage, but it didn’t feel like it. You were just a kid playing a game you loved. I remember being free…totally free.”
When asked to compare the intensity of playing in the Little League World Series and competing for a BCS victory in the FedEx Orange Bowl, Vandervelde was quick to profess his devotion to performing for the Hawkeye supporters.
“Definitely the Orange Bowl,” he said. “When you’re playing in the Orange Bowl, you’re playing for the whole Hawkeye nation, your family and friends and your teammates. There’s a lot there and there’s no better feeling. At the same time, the Little League World Series is something very special and something I’ll never forget.”