GR Christian celebrates Dick VanderKamp's 50 years of service

Kamp was the baseball coach from 1978-2001
Dick VanderKamp
Posted at 11:02 PM, May 20, 2023

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — “To be able to stay in one place, some people would say ‘you’re in a rut' and I would say ‘it’s been a joy’”, said Dick VanderKamp. 

GR Christian celebrates Dick VanderKamp's 50 years of service

For over 50 years, Dick VanderKamp has been a part of Grand Rapids Christian athletics. His memories of games could go on for hours.

“We played against Jenison High School consecutive years and they were the program of the day. We beat them two years in a row. Matt Vresinga who we’re going to play against here in a bit was the winning pitcher in one game and saved the other game.” said Kamp.

Before he start coaching, Kamp served in the Army in the mid 60’s. He then starting teaching P.E. at Oakdale Elementary and coached the Eagles baseball team from 1978-2001. Winning 3 city league titles, 7 district championships, a regional title and even made it to the state semi finals in 1984.

From 2001 till 2010, he stepped into the athletic director spot and now, is an assistant AD. But the relationships he’s built as a coach and mentor mean more than any record he holds.

Dick VanderKamp
Dick VanderKamp

“There are kids who’s fathers I coached who are now on the field. Brent Gates, our current coach was a high school player I coached against. My current principal was a student of mine. Our superintendent was a student of mine. The people that are working in the concessions are people who I had their sons and daughters. It’s truly a connection that I will relish for the rest of my life,” said Kamp.

That’s why it was no surprise to see a few hundred people show up to the Gainey Athletic complex on Saturday morning to celebrate Kamp’s dedication to GRC athletics.

“He’s the glue that holds us all together. He does many of the things that nobody else wants to do that are so critical to our operations. He has a level of wisdom and experience that, uh, they just don’t make them like that anymore and we’re super grateful for him,” said GRC athletic director Jason Heerema.

Kamp even got to throw out the first pitch before the baseball game against West Catholic.

His son Paul, who was a catcher on Kamp’s team in the 80’s was behind the plate to make the catch.

Dick and Paul VaderKamp
Dick and Paul VaderKamp

“As other kids that I interacted with that he coached in the past, I got to understand the type of person he was as a coach. Just a great encourager and great motivator. I didn’t know how it would go being coached by my father and there were some times were it was tough but most of the time it was a great time,” said Paul VanderKamp.

In 2000 he was inducted into the Michigan high school baseball coaches hall of fame, and then in 2014 was also named to the Grand Rapids Christian Hall of fame along with countless other awards.

“He is not replaceable. You cannot replace him but he’s given pieces of himself to each one of us with how he does things. Anybody who had ever worked with Dick VanderKamp walks away knowing what real work means. And I learned that too,” said Heerema.

Kamp will turn 77 in October. He says he works on a year to year basis and as of right now, and doesn’t think he’ll stop working at any point in his life. He’s had a career that some only dream of and wouldn’t change a single minute of it.

“No apologies and certainly no regrets,” said Kamp.