It’s been 21 years since Rick Huisman wore a Kansas City Royals jersey. But the games, the stats, the legend of world-famous baseball stadiums, and the crack of the bat under the lights, still loom large.
Rick’s white Kansas City Royals jersey hangs in the Timothy trophy case. Even behind the protective glass, the white number 37 once worn by the right-handed pitcher morphs the other trophies and plaques. It also inspires young Timothy athletes to dream about making it to the big leagues. It’s these dreams—the ones that start in T-ball and little league—that have fueled athletes like Timothy seniors Jimmy Allen and Nick Huisman.
It’s almost a cliché, but most any athlete who makes it to the pros will admit they imagined themselves in a Major League dugout or rounding third and sliding into home when they were little. Rick Huisman is no exception.
He was only eight-years-old when he announced to his mother that he was going to play in the majors one day. He was just a boy with a bat and glove, but it was a dream that he chased even as he pitched on the mound as a varsity player at Timothy Christian High School.
As he grew into a leader on Timothy’s varsity baseball team, it was clear Rick’s arm was something special. And scouts noticed, too. After graduating from Timothy in 1987, he was offered a scholarship to play baseball at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. In 1990, the San Francisco Giants drafted him in the third round. He went on to play for Double-A and Triple-A teams, and finally in August of 1995, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals.
“Playing in the Major Leagues,” Rick says, “was everything you could dream of and more.”
After three years in the majors, injuries and the natural progression of age led him to retire at the age of 33. But while he hung up his professional uniform, he never stopped loving the game.
He went on to become the pitching coach at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, for 12 years. He has been the pitching coach at Holland Christian High School for the past 3 years. And even though he lives in Michigan, he still has deep connections to the Timothy community and the athletic department.
“The teachers and coaches were amazing mentors and influences on my life,” Rick says. “I am still friends with some of them to this day.”
As the student turned player, and player to coach, Rick has assumed the role of mentor. He has had a particularly influential role on the lives of Nick Huisman and Jimmy Allen.
While they are related — Nick is Rick’s nephew and Jimmy and Rick are distant cousins — it’s the love of baseball and Timothy that has tied them together throughout the years. Baseball has bound them in brotherhood that is only found in the dugout and in the bottom of do-or-die 9th inning stretches.The legendary Uncle Rick — the one that got to step onto the mound in a Major League ballpark — has always been a mentor in Jimmy and Nick’s lives. But it’s Rick’s humility, on and off the field, that has impacted the boys over the years.
Nick relies on his life-verse, Psalm 121, which he first memorized when he was in second grade at Timothy. And Jimmy sees himself as a leader to the underclassmen, with the hopes that they don’t see him as the star-baseball player, but as a man of faith. Even at just seventeen-years-old, Jimmy and Nick are just as focused on their faith as they are on the game.
Both boys are a dominating presence on the Timothy Christian Varsity baseball team. Jimmy, a shortstop, and Nick, a pitcher who can throw 85 miles per hour, round out an impressive roster.
“I think it’s a great accomplishment for both Nick and Jimmy to play varsity baseball at Timothy,” Rick says. “But you have to have something special to play after high school. Both Nick and Jimmy have the God-given talent to play at the next level.”
The next level, while always a dream, seemed daunting at first. Both boys set out to find scholarships to continue playing the game they loved. It was a methodical process: contacting coaches, sending stats, inviting them to games. “I reached out to the pitching coach at Lewis University,” Nick says. “He came to one of my summer games. And they ended up offering me a scholarship.”
Jimmy also reached out to several colleges, asking coaches to come and see him play. Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo, offered him a scholarship to play on their Division I team.
Rick Huisman would argue the ease of finding a scholarship for both boys, particularly Division I and Division II scholarships, didn’t really have anything to do with marketing themselves or making promotional videos. Rick would say it came down to old-fashioned raw talent.
“I’m a true believer that if you’re good enough the colleges will find you,” Rick says, who has helped countless kids earn scholarships. “Play the game hard every day, because you never know who is watching. There’s always somebody watching. Both of these boys are extra-special to watch.”
It’s months before the home opener. Jimmy and Nick anxiously look forward to their last season as Trojans. It’s not lost on them that it’s the last time they’ll play on the field where Uncle Rick once played. Where they have all grown up: Not only as baseball players, but also as men of faith.
Because being a Timothy Christian Trojan means more than just RBIs and ERAs. It’s about developing faith and growing spiritually as a team and individuals. “My prayer for both boys,” Rick says, “is that they will continue to follow God and rely on him for strength. They are both going to have good college careers. And who knows what may happen next.”