Devine has connections to some famous athletes. We are so proud of Devine High School’s Quentin Zapata, State Champion – 110m Hurdles. But we also have ties to several members of the now famous D’Hanis Girls Softball and Boys Baseball State Championship teams! Here is a glimpse into the lives of two of those athletes.
Jaeden VanDamme, who played first base on the D’Hanis State Baseball Championship team this year, is the son of Cindy and Mike Van Damme. Mike is a Devine native and is a 1979 DHS graduate. Cindy’s and Mike’s daughters live in Mike’s grandparents’ house on the Van Damme farm on CR 5710.
Mike was Jaeden’s Little League coach from T-ball to junior league, instilling his love for baseball to Jaeden. Jaeden didn’t play first base until his last year in major-league when he was 12 years old. At that point, he fell in love with the first-base position and was determined to be his best.
Jaeden played first base on the JV baseball team his freshman year and was a designated hitter for some of the games for the varsity team during the regular season and in the playoffs. In his sophomore year, he made the varsity team, playing first base.
Jaeden continued to work hard to achieve his best, scooping up balls, stretching to get the balls “to the point of sometimes doing the splits or even laying out so the balls wouldn’t get by,” Mike says. Jaeden also worked hard on his batting, leading second highest average of .436 on his team and only striking out three times all season.
At the beginning of this season, the team knew that the state championship could be possible, but they knew also that they were going to have to work hard to achieve it. “And that’s what they did!” Jaeden’s mother, Cindy, proudly states. They played every game as though it was for the championship, ending the regular season with a 19/4 record. The only games they lost were to bigger Class A schools in tournaments.
Excited about the playoffs, Jaeden knew that each winning game took them closer to their mission -winning State. This dream came true on June 6 when the Cowboys beat New Home 4/0 for the State Championship!
Jaeden, a senior, was involved in many other extracurricular activities. In football, he played center and linebacker as well as defensive end. He played basketball his freshman and sophomore years and tennis for three years, winning Consolation in Men’s Doubles in District his junior year.
Jaeden was inducted into the D’Hanis NHS his junior year. He is a member of the D’Hanis 4-H Club, serving as parliamentarian his freshman year and third vice president his junior year. He was his class treasurer his junior year. In addition, Jaeden has shown steers every year since he was in third grade.
Cindy and Mike Van Damme say, “We are very proud of Jaeden and all of the D’Hanis Cowboys.”
Lyana Alexia Rodriguez is a junior at D’Hanis. She participates in cross country, track, volleyball, basketball, and softball. She is in the FCCLA and student council, is a class officer, and is an assistant coach for the Little League.
Lyana, whose mother and step father are Maggie and Jason Alvarez, is a cousin to Devine’s coach George Villa, who, according to Lyana’s mother, helped take care of Lyana as a baby.
This young lady has an inspiring story. Lyana had grown up in Hondo and went to school there until the eighth grade when she decided to be homeschooled after being bullied “for her choices,” her mother, Maggie, states. Lyana had been a dancer for 14 years: tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, hip-hop. She participated in competitions all over the nation and also taught children.
Then, two years ago, the world turned upside down for the family. Lyana’s stepfather, Jason Alvarez, was diagnosed with liver disease. He lost his job, and the family lost everything. Sadly, they became homeless for two years. According to Maggie, they lived with friends, in an RV, or just about anywhere. Therefore, Lyana had to give up her dream of dance and focus on what needed to be done at home.
The family moved to D’Hanis a little over a year ago. Once Mr. Alvarez was able to receive help, they saved enough money to find a small mobile home there. “Never did we imagine us being here,” Maggie says.
But, the move was a good choice. The first day the family visited the school; Coach Martinez saw Lyana and said, “You’re going to play softball, right?” Apparently, he remembered her from many years ago in Hondo. Yet, she hadn’t played any sports for almost five years. (Prior to that, she had played all sports before deciding to focus on dance.) But Lyana did agree to commit to play.
Lyana’s position is left field. She is a pinch runner and seldom plays but was at every practice and every game, and she loves cheering her fellow teammates on. She recognizes that her teammates have helped her through very rough times. Maggie says, “Lyana didn’t play to be recognized. She plays to help keep her mind off of what goes on at home.”
Jason Alvarez is now terminal. He was in need of a transplant, but the veins around his liver are inoperable. He is constantly in and out of the hospital. Therefore, when Lyana comes home, she helps with her little brother and sister who are ages six and three. She makes sure her stepdad takes his meds. She helps with dinner, cleans house, does laundry, and continues to maintain all A’s and one B.
Maggie exclaims, “This experience has been amazing for my daughter.”