Catching Up...With Tom Vantiger

Ten years after former Iowa State slugger Tom Vantiger re-wrote the record books, the Cyclone baseball program was discontinued for financial reasons. However, even without an active baseball program Vantiger's diamond exploits will not be forgotten.

Vantiger ended his time at ISU (1988-91) as the most prolific hitter in school history. A four-year starter in the outfield, the Mediapolis native became the all-time leader in: career hits (271), batting average (.385), runs (215), doubles (59) and RBI (180). Vantiger is also owns the single-season record in the following categories: runs (66), hits (85), batting average (.463), doubles (22) and RBI (73).


"I'm very pleased to be able to do what I did," Vantiger said. "Obviously, I couldn't have done it without the support of the coaches and other players that helped develop me. I came in as a catcher and had never played in the outfield before. With some help, I was able to rise to the task."


It was Vantiger's senior season that may have solidified him as the greatest player in school history. Vantiger earned first-team All-American honors and was an all-Big 8 selection as well, as he led the league in batting with a .463 average. That marked the first time any Cyclone player had hit over .400 twice in a career.


To top off his historic senior season, Vantiger was one of nine finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which honors the top collegiate baseball player. Arizona State's Mike Kelly won the award, but Vantiger said the experience was unforgettable.


"That was quite an honor," Vantiger said. "I was very flattered being a nominee. Getting flown to New York and staying at the Waldorf Astoria was great. Vin Scully (baseball broadcaster) was the emcee, and it was real fun meeting all the players."


Vantiger was a two-sport star at Mediapolis and thus had plenty of college options to choose from. Northern Iowa offered the all-state running back/punter a football scholarship. However, Vantiger chose to play baseball, which left him choosing between two in-state schools.


"Coach (Duane) Banks at Iowa recruited me heavily," Vantiger said. "I thought Iowa State was a better fit for me."


 While the individual accolades poured in for Vantiger at ISU, team accomplishments were not as plentiful. During his sophomore season in 1989, Vantiger teamed up with Mike Bush, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers and played football for the Cyclones, to produce a school-record 36 wins. ISU finished third in the Big 8 but did not advance to the NCAA regionals. In 1991, Iowa State managed to beat nationally ranked Oklahoma State three times.


"Pitching was always a concern for us," Vantiger said. "We had some good pitchers, but we didn't have the depth. That hurt us."

The Cleveland Indians following his senior season picked Vantiger in the sixth round of the 1991 MLB amateur baseball draft. Vantiger played just two seasons for Indians farm clubs before ending his pro baseball career.


"I had to make a decision on whether or not to keep going or hang up the spikes," Vantiger said. "Overall, it was the best decision to move on to a new chapter in life."


That chapter was teaching and coaching at his high school alma mater. After one year in Mediapolis, Vantiger accepted the head baseball coaching position at Louisa-Muscatine.

In six seasons at L-M, Vantiger won a Southeast Iowa Conference crown as well as a district title.


However, Vantiger wasn't completely satisfied with teaching and coaching, so he pursued a master's degree in engineering at Iowa.


"It was in tune with engineering and thought I needed to pursue that," he said. "It was a family decision. I also did it for my wife and children."


Since earning that degree, Vantiger also picked up a master's of business at Iowa.

He is currently an electronics hydraulics test engineer for John Deere in Dubuque. He lives just outside of Dubuque with his wife Lori, daughter Aubrey (5), son Bryn (nearly 3) and daughter Kaitlyn (10 months).


Iowa State provided Vantiger with a foundation through athletics and academics to help ensure him a successful future. That's why Vantiger is one of several former ISU baseball players encouraging new ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard to reinstate the baseball program that was discontinued in 2001 due to budget constraints.


"Obviously, I was disappointed when they canceled the program in 2001," he said.


"Hopefully, (Pollard) can get it back. (Athletics) is a business, and it came down to the budget, but maybe it can be reinstate in three or four years."


Vantiger has corresponded with Pollard via e-mail on his thoughts on the matter.

A group of former Cyclone players, including Vantiger, will meet with Pollard in September when former ISU player Jerry McNertney, who played for the Chicago White Sox, will be inducted into the Iowa State Hall of Fame.


"Overall, I was pleased with my career and had a lot of good memories," Vantiger said. "I want other players to have those opportunities at Iowa State."





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