By STEVE KRAH
Jack Van Remortel was born and raised in the middle of America.
Baseball has allowed him to see the USA from from coast-to-coast.
And he’s only 23.
Carmel, Ind., native Van Remortel is a fifth-year senior first baseman at the University of Michigan. The Wolverines were to open the 2023 home season today (March 8) after games in Arizona, California and Texas.
“It’s good to play some high-quality opponents early in the season,” says Van Remortel, whose already gone against Fresno State, Michigan State, UC San Diego, Grand Canyton, Cal State Fullerton, UCLA, UC Irvine, UCLA, Texas Christian, Texas Tech and Louisville. “You learn the things you need to work on as a team.
“I always think about how awesome it is where the game of baseball takes you. Being able to see these cool parks and places is really neat.”
Van Remortel went to the Wolverines after graduating from Carmel High School in 2018.
He appeared in 16 Michigan games as a pinch-hitter and in the infield in 2019 then played for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Sanford (Maine) Mariners.
“That was a great experience,” says Van Remortel. “I got my first taste of summer ball.”
The 2020 NCAA season was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic and Van Remortel got into two U-M games with one at-bat.
At the suggestion of then-Wolverines head coach Erik Bakich, Van Remortel went to Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., to play for Jeremiah Robbins in 2020-21 with the idea of coming back to Michigan.
“I went to get some at-bats and some experience,” says Van Remortel, who appeared in 37 games and rapped four home runs and drove in 28 runs in for the IronHawks.
Relationships and connections took Van Remortel to Oregon.
Michigan catcher Casey Buckley, who also went from Michigan to Umpqua and back to the Wolverines, is a California native and the son of Troy Buckley (now pitching coach at Fresno State).
The elder Buckley is a friend of Bakich and Robbins, who led Lewis and Clark State to three titles (2015, 2016 and 2017) and two runner-up finishes at the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
“I went out there for Coach Robbins and to learn under him,” says Van Remortel, who briefly played with the 2021 Bellingham (Wash.) Bells of the West Coast League before experiencing a ankle injury and went back to that team for a month in the summer of 2022.
“I’ve been all over the country,” says Van Remortel.
Primarily a third baseman in high school, Van Remortel has found a home at first base and explains how he approaches the position.
“When I’m on the field I always like to be talking and communicating,” says Van Remortel. “That’s important. And then just being the steady force over there. Having some stability at that spot is key. A lot of plays go through first base.
“Baseball is really catching and throwing the ball when you break it down on defense. Being able to make those long throws is an advantage.”
A Sport Management major, Van Remortel is scheduled to graduate in the spring.
“My passion is in baseball,” says Van Remortel. “I’ve always wanted to stay in sports. Recently I’ve leaned toward coaching.
“Coaching college players is something I’d be really passionate about. I’ve learned a lot in college. It’s a great age to grow and develop.”
Van Remortel got his start in travel ball with Indiana Mustangs and played for the Indiana Nitro then several years with the Indiana Bulls.
A four-year varsity player at Carmel, Van Remortel had Dan Roman as head coach his freshman and sophomore seasons and Matt Buczkowski for his junior and senior campaigns for the Greyhounds.
“It’s kind of cool to see how different people approach the game. Having two different perspectives from Coach Roman and Coach Buczkowski is really good,” says Van Remortel, who was all-state and all-conference in baseball and all-conference in football at Carmel.
He is seeing another perspective this season in Ann Arbor.
Tracy Smith, a graduate of South Newton High School in Kentland, Ind., and former head coach at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio), Indiana University and Arizona State University, is now head coach at Michigan.
Three members of Smith’s staff — associate head coach/recruiting coordinator Ben Greenspan, pitching coach Brock Huntzinger and director of operations Danny Stolper — worked with him at ASU.
Former big league catcher, Indiana University and Terre Haute North Vigo High School product Josh Phegley is Director of Player Development for the Wolverines.
Tyler Graham is volunteer coach/hitting instructor. Hunter Satterthwaite is director of data analytics.
Jack is the oldest of David and Kelly Van Remortel’s two children. Lauren Van Remortel is 21 and a senior volleyball player at Northern Michigan University. David Van Remortel played rugby at University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse. Kelly (Niedbalski) Van Remortel played volleyball at Purdue University.
Uncle Chris Gambol played offensive line at the University of Iowa and in the National Football League for the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots.