Linders is a quick learner

Having never played softball in her life, Janneke Linders decided to give it a try since her host family's daughter, Lindsay, played the sport for Minnewaska Area.

Proud moment
Janneke Linders, a foreign exchange student from Holland, proudly poses with the ball she hit for a single on April 23. Submitted photo

Having never played softball in her life, Janneke Linders decided to give it a try since her host family's daughter, Lindsay, played the sport for Minnewaska Area.

Linders, a senior outfielder, is a foreign exchange student from Holland, living with the Lee and Donna Braaten family in Glenwood. She has seen spot action for the Lakers' softball team this spring, albeit mostly when the team holds a comfortable lead in the latter innings.

But one game in particular will forever be engrained in her memory even though she didn't realize her accomplishment until teammates explained it to her after the game.

The Lakers were leading Sauk Centre 7-1 in a non-conference game on April 23. Minnewaska coach Steve Hoffmann was getting some of his bench players into the game, calling on Janneke (pronounced YAH-nuh-kuh) to pinch hit. She had had only four previous plate appearances to this point.

"When Jannecke came out for softball, she didn't know any of the rules or anything," said Hoffmann. "She's come a long way, though. She's our most improved player."


That doesn't mean Linders has mastered the sport in such a short period of time. But she has progressed by leaps and bounds in less than two months.

Pouncing on the first pitch by the Sauk Centre hurler, Linders lined a solid single over the shortstop's head.

"The pitch looked good so I just swung the bat," laughed Linders, while explaining the first hit of her career.

But Linders didn't realize that what she had done was any better than one of her previous times at bat when she reached on an error.

"I had been on base before after I hit the ball, but I didn't know this was better," she said, again managing to laugh at herself. "The girls were all screaming on the bench and I didn't really know why."

Linders advanced to second on a wild pitch, but then showed her inexperience on the next pitch. With no outs, Linders took off running from second base as a teammate popped out to center field. Linders was subsequently doubled off second.

"It's a lot to learn in a short period of time," said Hoffmann. "She wants to learn and she is very determined, but she just needs to play more to gain that experience of what to do on each play."

Hoffmann reiterated how much Linders has improved already.


"At the beginning of the year I was afraid to hit her fly balls because I thought she might get hurt," he said. "But I put her in the outfield in one game and I'm confident she'll catch the ball if it's hit to her. The amazing thing is she hasn't struck out at all."

And Linders, who has played in seven of the Lakers' games and is 1-for-6 at the plate so far, doesn't want any preferential treatment either. Early in the season, Hoffmann was having his team bunt. Each time a player failed to bunt the ball in fair territory, they would have to run an outfield lap. Linders struggled mightily to get a bunt down and was slowly becoming a marathon runner with all the mileage she was putting on. Hoffmann told her she didn't have to run since she was still so new to the game.

"She got upset with me," Hoffmann said. "She wants to be treated like all the others. And she didn't want to give up. So she just kept trying and trying until she finally bunted one fair."

After the Sauk Centre game, Linders was kicking herself for getting doubled off second as the team huddled for a conference. She was then presented the game ball; each member having signed it.

"After Janneke got her hit, I asked the Sauk Centre coach (Mike Ellens) if we could have the ball and he agreed and took the ball out of play," explained Hoffmann. "So Janneke got the actual ball that she got a hit with."

But Janneke still was having trouble understanding what all the fuss was. As soon as she had it explained to her and saw how happy everyone was, her eyes welled up with tears.

"It was just so nice of them to do that for me," she said. "I just started crying."

Jannecke had played tennis in her native country, but no other sports. She was a member of the Minnewaska varsity tennis team this past fall, posting an 8-2 record at 4-singles. After not playing a winter sport, she wanted to do something in the spring. So she joined the softball team. Her tennis prowess might explain her ability to make contact with a softball. 


After finally grasping the importance of her softball accomplishment, Janneke called her parents in Reek, Holland, the next day to tell them the good news.

"They didn't really know what I was so excited about," she laughed. "They don't understand softball either."

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