This was not the path Hesston College Baseball’s Dustin King envisioned for himself following his graduation from Clearwater (Kan.) High School. Having left home and enrolled at a four-year Kansas private school, the ambitious right-handed pitcher envisioned immediate success as a student athlete.
Early in the spring semester of his freshman year, however, King was surprised and disappointed to learn that he would be redshirted. Having hoped to compete for immediate innings, he found himself lacking for motivation and second-guessing his decision. The significant cost of attendance weighed heavily, too.
At a crossroads, King contacted his former pitching mentor Brian Holman, a Wichita area coach and former major league pitcher, to tell him he was itching for a change.
“When Dustin called me for advice during a disappointing freshman year, I thought Hesston College might be a good fit,” said Holman, who started working with King when he was 12.
That conversation helped set King on a life-altering path. It’s a path that has allowed King to be an impact player on a competitive collegiate team while gaining leadership and academic opportunities that are preparing him to pursue his dream of becoming an optometrist.
Familiar with Holman and his shared interest in developing the whole person as a student athlete, Hesston College head baseball coach Rob Ramseyer was immediately interested in having King join his squad.
“When Brian told me about Dustin, I was confident we were talking about a quality person,” Ramseyer said. “When we recruit a pitcher, we look for guys who can command multiple pitches for strikes, are great competitors and are going to love and care about their teammates. Dustin has done all three.”
With Ramseyer in pursuit, King was initially leery of the cost to attend another private college. He says his campus visit shed light not only a great opportunity to immediately compete for innings, but to do so affordably. Within weeks of the visit, he was in.
Since signing with the Larks, King has found himself challenged both on and off the mound. He’s taken each challenge and turned it into an opportunity to both improve himself, his teammates and his community.
“The coaches have helped me become a better person,” King said. “As players, we’re pushed to do well in the classroom, and I’ve had opportunities to take on leadership roles within the team that have spilled over to the campus.”
A key part of last year’s pitching staff that led the Larks to a school record-tying 26 wins, King led the team in wins and innings pitched. With another big year, King may position himself at the top of several major career pitching records at Hesston. More important than the wins, however, is where and when they’ve occurred.
During a March 19 game at local power Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, King tossed seven scoreless innings of relief, yielding five hits without a walk in a 2-1 Hesston extra-inning win. Later, in an early April home game, King again beat the Blue Dragons, this time going eight innings with seven hits and three runs allowed in a 6-5 Larks win.
King’s mental toughness was on full display in the Larks season finale, a May 17 super regional start at Murray State CC (Tishomingo, Okla.). Despite giving up a leadoff homerun and several early hard hit balls, King stayed on the mound for all nine innings in a 5-3 loss to the eventual NJCAA Div. II World Series Champions.
King’s growth has not been limited to the baseball diamond. Late in his freshman year, King was selected as a resident assistant and student ambassador, both highly sought after positions. A peek at his 2013-14 academic workload reveals a true student athlete. This year alone, King’s course load includes Microbiology, Religions of the World, Physics I and II, Macroeconomics and Organic Chemistry, among others.
“Dustin is a leader on campus and operates with transparency and honesty,” Ramseyer said. “He has plenty of options to extend his college career, and I’m excited to see his continued growth.”
In his final semester, King is job shadowing at Mid Kansas Eyecare in Hesston to get a glimpse into his future career. Sitting in on a wide range of patient encounters and one-on-one time with local optometrists will give King an edge as he plans his future.
“Dustin has certainly made the most of his opportunity at Hesston,” Holman said. “His hard work and good attitude are reflected in his accomplishments there. He’s had to work for everything he’s been given. Despite some adversity and disappointment throughout his career, he refused to give up on himself or his dream.”
“Hesston College has changed my life dramatically for the better,” King said. “It’s been a great place to start my career.”