Devon Van Houten now has three family units thanks to his time at Buena Vista University as an NCAA Division III student-athlete: the Van Houtens of Saydel, his immediate family; the Demers family of Storm Lake, as he and BVU graduate Jasmine Demers will wed in September; and his BVU baseball family, a group that consists of about 40 teammates, coaches and staff members each season.
“I really found two families here,” Van Houten said from the dugout prior to a pitchers’ workout at the BVU/Storm Lake High School Baseball Field. “The baseball team has been another family for me. Guys I compete with and talk to every day have become just like brothers.”
Those teammates helped pull Van Houten, a senior, through challenging times. The left-handed relief pitcher was in the midst of a training regimen on Nov. 1, 2020, when his left shoulder began hurting. The diagnosis: torn labrum. It required surgery and months of rehab.
Three months later, with pain persisting, Van Houten visited a shoulder specialist and learned he had torn his latissimus dorsi, a muscle beneath the armpit. It forced a second surgery in July 2021, necessitating a second months-long rehab. He finally resumed throwing in November 2021 and enjoyed a decent start to his final season as a Beaver, going 1-0 early in the campaign.
“I’m throwing without pain and my velocity is about back to what it had been,” he said. “Actually, I’ve got more ball movement now. The big issue involves getting comfortable on the mound.”
Coach Steve Eddie is confident Van Houten will settle in as the season progresses.
“It takes time after every injury,” Eddie said. “In Devon’s case, he’s battled back from a pair of significant setbacks. Just to have him back as an integral part of the team speaks to his determination and patience in a long battle.”
Those around Van Houten have helped him negotiate the detour-laden path back into the Beaver pen. He’s been blessed to receive an ample supply of motivational messages and encouraging words from friends, teammates, and his extended families.
“After my first surgery and then not getting better, I didn’t know if I’d ever pitch again,” he said. “Being able to pitch on the season-opening weekend in Omaha was a surreal feeling. I was so happy that day and every day during the spring trip in Arizona.”
Following the Arizona trip and a 12-8 start to the season, including a 4-2 mark in American Rivers Conference games, Van Houten has settled back into his campus routine, one that involves multiple sessions each week with Dr. Bryan Kampbell, BVU associate professor of communication studies. Kampbell plays the role of student as Van Houten designs workout regimens.
“My mission involves getting variability for Dr. Kampbell into his workouts,” Van Houten said. “He was doing some of the same things for the past couple of years, so I’ve tried to change his routine while helping him achieve health and fitness goals.”
This experience, coupled with his other academic work, has the rehabilitation health sciences major grateful for his BVU instruction. Van Houten has been accepted to the Cleveland University Doctor of Chiropractic program in Kansas City, Mo.
“I’ve never had any trouble getting into a class or seeing a professor when I’ve had questions,” he said. “Dr. Thom Bonagura (Dean of the School of Science and associate professor of biology) was great about directing me and letting me figure things out.
“Our baseball coaches go about it the same way: coach Eddie is very good about helping you when you need it, but not holding your hand through the process,” Van Houten added.
Van Houten’s academic and athletic experiences have him considering the role baseball might play in his career. Before heading to chiropractic school, Van Houten will spend the summer assisting BVU alum Kyle Dupic in coaching baseball at Alta-Aurelia High School.
“As I move closer to the end of my time at BVU, the less I want it to end,” Van Houten said. “I know I’d like to stay involved with baseball. I’m thinking someday that I could be a chiropractor and a coach.”