By guest writer Alex Vela
My name is Alex Vela, and I am a recent graduate of Ivy Tech Community College Fort Wayne. I was a part of the first Ivy Tech Titans baseball program, and I am completely honored to be one of the founding players.
After graduating from Ivy Tech, I received a full ride to play baseball at the University of Indianapolis. Here I’m a Junior transfer studying Sports Communication and minoring in Business. It has been quite the change coming from a Community College, but a change that I was expecting and ready for from my time at Ivy Tech.
I hope to be able to play professional baseball sometime after I graduate. It is every athlete’s dream to make it big and be one of the best to play. That is my dream, and I understand how difficult it is.
When I really think about it, the reason I went to Ivy Tech was to play baseball. I only had one offer coming out of high school, and it wasn’t close to a full ride. I would have been paying loads of money just to continue to play a game I’ve played since I was a child. That’s when Ivy Tech had announced they were starting a baseball program in the fall of 2017, and I drove to Fort Wayne for a meeting with the legendary Coach Hershberger.
Coach Hershberger is a man who not only started up the NAIA powerhouse in Indiana Tech, but one who gets the most out of his players. Many people might not like or agree with his tactics, but no one can argue with the success he’s seen over his career. I want to thank Coach Hersh for being a great coach to me and for teaching me so much more about baseball. I hope I was a good example for you and my teammates, and for the future Ivy Tech Titans for years to come. Thank you for everything Coach.
After that meeting, I knew exactly what to do. I had to take a chance on myself. I believe I decided to go to Ivy Tech to grow not only as a baseball player, but as a person. I was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, so I made a big decision moving to Fort Wayne to live in an apartment away from my family and friends and go to a brand new program and school, but I’m thankful for everyone at Ivy Tech and in Fort Wayne.
Ivy Tech is special for so many reasons, and now it’s a place where students can not only continue to get an education, but keep playing competitive sports. I believe that the past two years started the movement, and the future recruits will bring even more positive attention to the school and the program. Many people I talk to don’t believe me when I tell them that I played baseball at Ivy Tech for the last two years. Those confused and questioning stares are something I’ve gotten used to, but I’m excited to look back at this team in 30, 40, 50 years and say, “That’s what we started.”
The first season in Ivy Tech’s existence for baseball saw many obstacles. Of course it would. What else would you expect for a brand-new program? We had about 50 guys at the first meeting, and that number soon dropped to about 30 by the end of our fall season and leading into winter break. By the end of the season, there were 12 healthy guys suiting up on game day. Our Coach called us the “Dirty Dozen,” and that nickname kind of stuck. This caught the attention of the local media, and we had news reporters and writers coming out to our practices and games asking us how we were doing it. The answer was simple, we loved the game and we loved one another. Any of us could have decided not to show up for the other guys, which meant we probably wouldn’t have had enough players. However, we kept coming back to play the game we all loved so much.
While we ultimately came up short in our goal to win a National Championship the following year, I believe that we still achieved something important. We showed the value of Ivy Tech’s baseball program and laid a foundation for the future. I want to thank the guys from the Dirty Dozen and the recruits from this past year for allowing me to be their teammate and friend; we truly started something special.
Near the end of my final season at Ivy Tech,we had our baseball banquet and awards ceremony. That night I received the Bunting Award, MVP and the Titan Award (which I had received the previous year). I am most proud of the Titan Award, because it’s given to the individual who embodies what it means to be a “Titan” on and off the field. I was called up by Coach Hershberger along with my family to receive these awards. He also announced that going forward it will now be called the “Alex Vela Titan Award,” and that the #22 jersey I wore the past two seasons would be retired.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have an award named after me or my jersey retired by a baseball team. It’s something I sort of try to avoid talking about for my own reasons, but I’m very thankful for the coaching staff for believing in me and thinking so highly of me as a person and ballplayer.
However, baseball will always be a team game. I’m nothing without those eight other guys on the field, I’m nothing without those coaches, and I’m nothing without my family and friends. I’m thankful for everyone who has made a boy’s dream to play baseball a reality.
One last time, thank you, Ivy Tech, for allowing me to represent you both on and off the field.
Alex Vela, #22