THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: In baseball and in politics, Tyler Bellstrom ’09 has never been a fan of sitting on the bench. A political science major, Bellstrom has spent the year immersed in the political primaries and upcoming presidential election. Over the winter break, he headed to New Hampshire to spend a week campaigning for Barack Obama. “We campaigned for six days and probably got about four or five hours of sleep,” he says. “It was physically grinding, but a lot of fun. We’d knock on people’s doors, and they’d either tell us to go away or have a dog that ran at us. It was nice when someone actually wanted to talk,” he says with a laugh.
In the spring, Bellstom will also be one of the first to play baseball on Vassar’s brand new field. “I’m so lucky to be a part of this,” he says. “It looks amazing and the best in the conference, with dugouts too.” He also hopes the new location will attract a larger crowd. “It’s right next to the Town Houses, so conceivably you could have students barbequing on their lawn and watching a baseball game.” New additions to the Prentiss Field complex also include an eight-lane track and turf field with lights, as well as press boxes, and new fields for field hockey, soccer, and lacrosse. In addition to the new baseball diamond, Prentiss will also have a baseball practice field and a sports pavilion with locker rooms and training rooms.
Interested in sports early on, Bellstrom didn’t decide on baseball right away. “I’ve played it my whole life, but when I was younger, I always liked basketball more,” he says. “But as I got older, baseball better suited my personality. In basketball, everything was so fast-paced, and I was always an inch away from getting injured. I sprained nearly everything in my body. Baseball’s more of a sport you can live with.” Growing up in a tiny town in southern Vermont, Bellstrom recalls playing ball outside with his dad who has cheered for him since T-ball and Little League.
When it was time to begin the college search, Bellstrom knew he wanted to continue to play baseball. At first, he set his sights on Division I Ivy League schools, hoping baseball would help him get a foot in the door. “They told me I wouldn’t contribute until my junior year,” he explains. “But the chances I’m going to play baseball beyond college are not that high. I’d rather get in four years of playing, and then be able to move on with my life.” Bellstrom hadn’t considered Vassar until he met Jon Martin, Vassar’s baseball coach, at an athletic recruitment showcase. “We really hit it off, and he seemed like someone I would really like to be coached by.” Martin recommended a college visit, which Bellstrom made on a whim. “As soon as I got here, I fell in love with the campus and got along really well with the team,” he says. “I came back for accepted students day, as one of three schools left to visit. It was spring and everything was blooming. I looked at my parents and said, ‘We don’t need to go anywhere else.’”
After three years of studying and playing baseball, Bellstrom is still grateful for his decision. “I’m so glad I came here because I’ve had a chance to play every day, and I’m starting to fall in love with education too,” adding that there’s a nice balance between social life, sports, and academics. At first he considered studying English or history (“My sister was a political science major, and I swore I was not going to be like her!”), but then enrolled in his first political science class. “I liked it a lot and then started taking more classes in the department,” he says. “I haven’t come across a political science course I haven’t liked yet.” What began with Bellstrom reading the New York Times at the age of 12 has grown into a love of government and public policy, which he hopes to further explore in graduate school.
In the meantime, Bellstrom eagerly awaits the start of a new baseball season. “With the new field, Vassar can really start becoming a baseball kind of school,” he says. This season, Bellstrom will play first base and pitch as well. “I love pitching,” he says, “but playing first base is great, too, because then I get to play every day and be out on the field. I get the best of both worlds. It’s more work, but I’d rather do that than sit on the bench.”