Earlier this year, Lansing resident Bob Vanschoelandt was inducted into the Midwest United States Specialty Sports Association Slowpitch Softball Hall of Fame.
He started playing softball when he was 19 in local recreation leagues with buddies.
“I got started as we all do,” Vanschoelandt said. “Started playing with my buddies in the local rec leagues. As we all got older, some of us started to move on and do other things. I still wanted to play and had some people ask me to play on some competitive teams. That morphed into playing on teams fully sponsored and traveling.”
Now 42 years after he started playing, the 61-year old was one of 37 people inducted into the Hall of Fame from Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. The class was a mix of players, coaches and umpires that played USSSA softball in those three states. Vanschoelandt said he has been involved with all three positions but went into the hall as a player.
Vanscholelandt said he started playing on traveling sponsored teams in the USSSA around the age of 37 as a pitcher and played for about 10 years. Vanscholelandt played on Pierre Heidrich’s team Long Homes. He then played for Jason Hoover’s KC Rage and Sidewinders teams and then with Buddy Johnson’s team, Titans.
“Lots of travel,” he said. “Long weekends and sore Mondays. Loved it all. League, state and regional championships. No world titles. But oh so close. Placed fifth two years in a row.”
One of the things that Vanschoelandt said made him stand out with the other pitchers inducted was his use of a mask while pitching. He said he started to use it in the early 2000s as he got older as a way to feel safer as his reflexes started to go down.
“Now you go anywhere,” he said, “and in almost any age group, you’ll see people wearing a mask. In fact, it’s required for 50-over to wear one if you are pitching.”
He said he started umpiring during the same time as his traveling with USSSA and worked in several leagues and tournaments. He said he even did a season in the Hispanic World league. Vanschoelandt has also been an umpire in the Leavenworth adult softball leagues. Tabor Medill, Leavenworth Parks and Recreation program supervisor for sports, said Vanschoelandt is a “great person” and a “very humble man.”
Vanschoelandt said he will be participating in a softball league this summer. As he continues to get older, he said he has to pace himself with his games.
“I’ve been working at Hallmark for 42 years,” he said. “I’m on the day shift now and off at 4 p.m. If I play or umpire, it is usually 6 p.m. or after. But as we all get older, it takes a toll on your body so I have to pace myself a little bit.”