What A Difference A Year Makes
April 6, 2001
Before every home game at Sunken Diamond, the Stanford team runs onto the field for the playing of the National Anthem. The starters run to their places on the field and the rest of the team stands with the coaches in front of the dugout. For at least one Cardinal, the moment is especially meaningful.
Last season, as fans were filing into Sunken Diamond, a gentleman collapsed. The man and his wife sit in the stands for every game. While Stanford officials rushed to take care of him, his wife stood nearby. The team trainer came to Jason and sat him down.
'Immediately, I thought the worst,' noted Jason.
The two people were his grandparents. In the end, everything turned out well.
'It's cool,' says Jason, 'because one - he's okay now and two - everybody helped out. It was almost like the best thing because of where he was - so close to Stanford Hospital.'
Family is an important link for Jason. His grandparents make it a priority to be there for every home game and his parents fly in from Nevada for almost every weekend series. Jason says, 'It's the coolest thing. [Having them here] helps me not take anything for granted. I will play hard every time out because I know they're there. So even if I strikeout five times, I'll get back out and not drop any balls. I really appreciate it.'
Family is very important to Jason, but he also recognizes the significance of the surrounding community. He and his teammates go to the hospital and spend time with the children. Jason confesses, 'We play Mario Kart with them, it's so cool because they just love it. They're good too, you go in thinking that you're not supposed to beat them, but I play my best and they still smoke me.'
VanMeetren has also spent time at the elementary school where assistant coach Dean Stotz's wife works. He once walked into a classroom that expected former Stanford basketball star and current Los Angeles Laker Mark Madsen. He won the room over, though, and the kids loved the stories he read.
The best part of being a Stanford athlete is different for each person, but the opportunity to play on one of the nation's best teams is important to VanMeetren. 'I chose [to attend] Stanford because they were ranked No. 1 in the country and I wanted to play for the best team,' says Jason. Of course there are other perks too. VanMeetren shares, 'It's cool to have little kids want to hear you and get your autograph!'
A lot of kids have wanted VanMeetren's autograph this year.
VanMeetren broke into the starting lineup this year after a rough year last season. His first year on The Farm, an elbow injury kept him out of all but nine games. His sophomore year started with tremendous expectations with VanMeetren starting in left field, but he only saw action in 23 games. The 2001 season has been completely different as Jason has started in 30 games in left field and given the Cardinal a boost hitting .320 with 36 RBI and six homeruns.
Whether the Cardinal is ranked first or tenth in the polls, Jason VanMeetren is not paying much attention. His focus is on his game, his team and his family. So when the National Anthem starts playing, Jason takes a moment to look up in the stands at his family and remember what it is all about - that they are all there to watch and support Stanford as he tries to help lead the team to Omaha again.