Highlanders rising across the decades

Dennis Van Pelt ’94
Dennis Van Pelt ’94

Former professional baseball player Dennis Van Pelt ’94 says the life lessons he learned at Radford University are helping him stay positive and encourage others through this global health pandemic.

Van Pelt made his mark as a Highlander and set the bar high. When he graduated in 1994, he held the single-season and career records for home runs and stolen bases.

Out of high school, Van Pelt was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 42nd round. He then became the fourth Highlander selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft chosen in the 25th round by the California Angels.

The alumnus now lives in New Jersey and coaches travel baseball. When his players ask if everything will be okay, Van Pelt assures them that together, they will find strength they didn’t know they had.

“It’s unprecedented times, but this too will come to an end. Our country will bounce back. Radford University will bounce back. And, when we get out of this, we will be stronger.”

Van Pelt says much of positive nature comes from experiences he had during his time at Radford, especially under the direction of then Head Baseball Coach Scott Gines.

“I learned so much more about life and myself not from the victories, but from defeats. Many of those lessons happened on the playing field behind the Dedmon. Our coach pushed us, and I didn’t always understand why he pushed so hard. Now, I realize he helped me be able to deal with adversity,” said Van Pelt.

Van Pelt believes the guidance of his coach prepared him for situations of uncertainty, and that pushing through adversity is part of the Highlander spirit. He hopes Radford University students recognize the opportunity ahead.

“I think about the students graduating Radford University this year. They’re going to be put into jobs that are going to rebuild us. It is the students that will help lead our resurrection as a country and fix what was broken. Who better to pave the way than Radford University students?”

In 2018, Van Pelt was inducted into the Radford University Baseball Hall of Fame after proving to be one of the best all-around players in program history and setting the tone for future Highlanders. He says returning to campus felt like coming home, and he hopes all students, faculty and staff know they will always have a home at Radford and a place as Highlanders.

“I hope graduates know, we believe in you and your talents. We know you will create a path for the next generation of Highlanders. We will rise from these times together.” #HighlandersRise

#HighlandersRise is an initiative to spotlight how Radford University students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members push through fear and frustration to pursue their hopes and dreams, even in trying times. Our resiliency sustains us, and our responsiveness empowers us. The entire Radford family, both near and far, is demonstrating a tremendous amount of strength during the unprecedented times we are facing locally, regionally and globally.

Apr 7, 2020
Christina Edney