| University of St. Thomas Names Baseball Coach |
The University of St. Thomas announced it hired Clayton VanderLaan as the head coach of the school’s varsity baseball team, which will take the field in spring 2020 after more than a half-century absence.
VanderLaan, a Houston native with more than 20 years of baseball experience as a player and a coach, recently served as head baseball coach at Saginaw Valley State University, an NCAA Division II institution in University Center, Michigan.
The hire of VanderLaan will also serve as a homecoming of sorts, as he spent three years on the coaching staff at nearby St. Thomas High School.
“We are extremely excited to welcome home Coach Clayton VanderLaan,” UST Athletic Director Todd Smith said. “We wanted a leader who knew and loved Houston, understood our institution, and would relate to the young men who want to play college baseball. Coach VanderLaan embodied all of these qualities. Led by Coach ‘V’, we have a fantastic opportunity to set a foundation and build a culture of success on the field, in the classroom and in the community.”
VanderLaan capped a three-year tenure as the pitching coach at Houston’s St. Thomas High School by winning the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) Division I baseball championship in 2017. During his time leading the St. Thomas arms, the staff recorded an overall ERA of 2.85 and a record of 80-21, including a 65-4 during VanderLaan’s last two seasons. A total of 11 pitchers from the program would go on to play college baseball.
VanderLaan spent the 2017-18 year at Saginaw Valley, where he promoted to the head coaching position in April. Vanderlaan’s career also includes playing three seasons of professional minor league baseball from 2012 through 2014, which included stints with Alexandria (La.) Aces and Brownsville Charros in United League Baseball.
Prior to his professional career, VanderLaan was a three-year letter winner at Cameron University, a Division II program in southwestern Oklahoma. He was a three-year starter at Cameron, and earned All-Lone Star Conference Honorable Mention as a senior in 2012. VanderLaan began his collegiate baseball career at Michigan State in 2009.
VanderLaan earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies (with a Kinesiology influence) from Graceland University in Iowa in December, 2014. During his time at Graceland, he also played two seasons of varsity football.
“As a native Houstonian the three things that have been the most influential in my life, besides my wonderful parents, are my faith, baseball, and the City of Houston,” said VanderLaan. “I love my city, and to think that UST is giving me the opportunity to come home and combine all three of those things is an emotion that is hard to put into words. There is no doubt that some of highest quality of high school baseball is played and coached right here in the city of Houston, and I cannot wait to hit the recruiting trail to find the young men who will lead a new chapter in this cities storied college baseball scene, and forever set the standard for future generations of Celt ballplayers.”
When Coach guides the 2020 Celts onto the field for their first home game, VanderLaan will likely be in a familiar setting; the Celts will play most of their home games at St. Thomas High School for the foreseeable future.
“Clayton is a true born leader,” said St. Thomas High School Head Baseball Coach Ryan Lousteau. “His knowledge of the game is unmatched, and he has elevated programs everywhere he has coached. The University of St. Thomas couldn’t have found a more dynamic, energetic person to lead their program. He is extremely dedicated and committed to his coaching and to his players. I am excited for him to begin this new chapter with UST Baseball and see his vision turn into success.”
The University of St. Thomas last fielded a baseball team during the 1968-69 academic year. UST is the only four-year college with varsity athletics outside of the NCAA’s Division I within a 150-mile radius of Houston.
“Houston is one of, if not the best, baseball cities in the country,” Smith said. “St. Thomas will be the only small college opportunity for Houston-area high school student–athletes to continue their baseball career while pursuing their college degree. We believe we have great potential in baseball and can compete for conference and national championships soon.”
The UST Athletics Program was re-established in 2006. The program has recently been approved for exploratory membership in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association for the 2018-2019 academic year. The University also accepted membership in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC), becoming league’s 10th member institution.
Membership requirements of the SCAC and NCAA Division III include sponsorship and participation in at least 12 intercollegiate sports, 6 men’s sports and 6 women’s sports. The 2018-2019 year will see UST introduce men’s and women’s cross country, baseball and men’s and women’s tennis. The five sports debuting this year will join UST’s varsity programs in women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s golf.