James "Val" Vandeventer '78 (Baseball)
Val Vandeventer was a three-year starting center fielder and the first Cardinal drafted to play professional baseball. After playing for Coach Branson Ferry at nearby St. John’s College High School, Vandeventer played under CUA Hall of Famers Bob Talbot and Tim McCormick. He led the Redbirds in batting three straight seasons and possessed what Talbot called “probably the best arm of anyone to play at Catholic University.”
In his first start (1974), he threw out two Howard runners at home plate – in the same inning. He hit .346 that season and, during the summer, he and McCormick represented the United States in a series of exhibition games in Korea.
In 1977 Vandeventer batted .432 with 37 hits, five home runs and 29 RBIs to help lead CUA (18-8-1) to the only NCAA Division I Tournament (1977) in school history. He was named first-team All-District and to ECAC and NCAA All-Star teams. In the NCAA playoffs, despite an injured thumb, he smacked a two-run homer against Temple and had two doubles and an RBI vs. No. 12 St. John’s. That summer he played in the prestigious invitation-only Cape Cod League. Nine players from that club were drafted by Major League Baseball teams.
During his senior year (1978), Vandeventer had a .408 batting average – 34th highest in the nation – and a .643 on-base percentage. The Atlanta Braves drafted him in the 17th round and assigned him to Bradenton, Fla., in the Gulf Coast League. His career was interrupted a month later by a high-speed collision with the right fielder that resulted in a broken left hand. He played the next season, but with his hand not healing properly, lost his position to eventual Major Leaguer Milt Thompson.
Hank Aaron signed his release papers.
McCormick, his teammate for three years and coach for one, remembers him throwing out five Howard base runners as a starting freshman left fielder in a fall doubleheader.
“Val was an outstanding defensive outfielder with a cannon for an arm,” he said. “He grew into a great senior leader who, through his work ethic, made all those he played with better.”