There must be something about the dirt or grass on these playing fields that attracts the alumni back to their home turf.James Stricker, who graduated from Goshen College in 2017, returned to campus this fall to serve as pitching coach for the baseball team. As a student, he was a relief pitcher on the team, tallying 8.2 innings and holding a 2-6 win/loss record for the Maple Leafs.
Stricker joins Brad Stoltzfus, the head coach; Mike Walker, the assistant coach; and Justin Grubbs, the assistant pitching coach, in leading the team this fall.
“The friendships I made with Brad, Mike, Grubbs and those connections that I had made during college were big enough to bring me back,” Stricker said.
Being born and raised in Indianapolis, Stricker talked about how the move from the state capital to Goshen came naturally.
“I had always wanted to move away from home to go to college but I didn’t know where or how I would do so, but then I had heard about Goshen and the people here were like a helpful and guiding hand in how to move away from home and embraced me with open arms since my first day,” Stricker said.
The community of Goshen as a city and a college feels very welcoming to the alumni who return.
Jaeyln Rufenacht, who graduated from Goshen College in 2020, returned to Goshen as an athletic trainer in July of 2022.
Rufenacht was a catcher on the softball team as a student, with a career .255 batting average. She had 12 hits in 48 at bats, including one homerun.
“When I transferred I wasn’t too involved in the off-campus community as I came in as a junior and kind of had a smaller group of friends, which were my teammates, since at that age everyone kind of has their set friend group which they tend to stick with,” Rufenacht said.
Since returning on staff, Rufenacht has joined a lot of different clubs and groups and has spent a lot of time downtown at the Goshen Library in her free time. “I do a lot of things within GC and even outside of it as I am a part of a run club and I go to a church within the community,” Rufenacht said.
She also said it feels as if she is seeing and experiencing more things about the community and Goshen than when she was a student.
Now she is in a running group called the “Goshen Dam Beer Run Club,” which meets at the Goshen Brewing Co. and runs along the millrace and back during the “meeting sessions.”
“The church I attend is Harvest Community Church, and both the church and the run club I was invited to by my coworker Justin as I was searching for a club and a church to join and these were a good fit,” Rufenacht said.
“Within the Goshen community I have seen a lot of positive changes in athletics and the new campus pastor is something that is positive and there has been a lot more interaction in the school and now people understand or know what kind of college we are,” Rufenacht said.
She had also expressed appreciation for the leadership and vision of Erica Albertin, the athletic director.
Something that brought Rufenacht back to Goshen was a greater fit for what she had wanted in a job such as being in a smaller campus where she wouldn’t be the only who was the athletic trainer or the only person who was there to help athletes.
Meanwhile, the head baseball coach, Brad Stoltzfus, who graduated from the college in 2018, never left town. “I have lived in Goshen for about nine years now, since my sophomore year of college, when my parents moved to Goshen,” Stoltzfus said. He became an assistant coach a year after he graduated, in 2019. Earlier this year he was named head coach.
Stoltzfus has seen a large change in the area since his first fall semester here in the year of 2014, whether it’s the people, the places or the economic changes of the area especially in downtown Goshen.
“The one thing about Goshen is that people are super supportive in general and both super supportive of the arts, live music and all of the small businesses,” Stoltzfus said.
As Stoltzfus was still trying to figure out what it was he wanted to do he came back the following year after graduating and was helping out at the baseball diamond and trying to find his path for the future.
“There definitely has been change on the athletic side which was good, by bringing in Erika and making things run smoothly and bring in good people,” Stoltzfus said.
In the past six or so years there has been a lot of positive growth which has helped to make a better community as there has been a lot of support from everyone who loves the college in this town, he said.
“The meaning has actually changed a lot for me in the sense of what it means to be a Maple Leaf,” he said. “From player to coach, you definitely see both sides of it.”
As a coach, he said, you take a greater sense of pride in wearing that Goshen College logo and the name across your chest and what you stand for when you wear that name.
“The community as a whole is very, very supportive of everyone around them from small businesses to the college itself,” he said. “Everyone knows everyone and will heal each other with things out of good nature.”
When Stoltzfus first got out of college he had picked up a job as a server and then slowly made his way to the Goshen Brewing Company, where he had worked up until this year when he got the job as the head coach for the college baseball team.
“I still have my foot in the door at the Goshen Brew, but it is kind of hard to pick up a shift now that I am coaching full time here at the college,” Stoltzfus said. The connections he had made in Goshen kept him in Goshen and he was very supported and stressed the importance of a first impression to people you meet, something as much as the first handshake and first actions are crucial to getting support and building a relationship with others.
Whether he is serving at the Brew or coaching players at Goshen College, Stoltzfus said, “I will be there to listen and talk and will take care of them (while) doing my job.”