By Mal Boright
It may have been the first standing ovation for simply carrying a tarp to the pitching mound when infield sprinklers inadvertently went off before the start of the final inning in a semifinal playoff game.
The recipient was Champlain Valley Union High’s Anders Fasth-Gillstedt, who helped rush the tarp to the mound to keep the dirt from becoming muddy and possibly mucking up teammate Curt Echo’s shutout of Colchester, and possibly the CVU baseball team’s trip to the championship game, where it popped Bellows Free Academy of St. Albans 5-0 for the crown.
Fasth-Gillstedt, an exchange student from Sweden, was a valued member of head coach Tim Albertson’s team, even though he had never played the game before coming to the United States and CVU last August.
“We have nothing like it in Sweden,” the popular athlete said during a recent interview at CVU. “It’s a fun sport.”
“He had a lot of enthusiasm for the game,” said CVU assistant coach Onnie Matthews.
Fasth-Gillstedt said he liked playing toss and fielding the best. “The outfield was perfect for me,” he said. “I least enjoyed hitting.”
Although he seldom got into games, he could be found chasing down foul balls and occasionally getting a hand or supportive comment from spectators for a job well done. He would even take a bow every once in a while.
No one was happier than Fasth-Gillstedt after the championship triumph over BFA at Burlington’s Centennial Field.
“We have a championship,” he shouted.
“This was an amazing group,” he said later of the team that went 18-2 and captured the second Division 1 baseball title in school history. “Everybody from the coaches to the last guy on the bench were great. The coaches made it fun and really helped me as a rookie.”
Fasth-Gillstedt was also a member of the CVU soccer team last fall that got to the championship game before losing a tight contest to South Burlington High.
He was a reserve goalie for the Redhawks and posted a 7-0 shutout victory in the one game he started between the posts.
“In Sweden, I played soccer until the seventh grade and then basketball took over,” he said. He called basketball his favorite sport and back home follows the NBA “24-seven.”
Fasth-Gillstedt was a member of the CVU varsity basketball team over the winter and logged significant playing time.
He said he enjoyed his time at the school, and while Sweden has “a good school system,” he found teachers at CVU “very accessible,” and helpful.
A sense of community at the school also impressed him. “There are 1,400 students here. I don’t know all of them, but I know a lot.”
Fasth-Gillstedt’s English is very good, a result of the Swedish educational system’s insistence that all youngsters start learning a second language as early as the first grade. Many take up a third language later in their schooling.
He says he has more years of study ahead of him including college, which in Sweden is paid for, although students are responsible for room and board. He also has set a goal to return to CVU for a visit, “in two years.”
Fasth-Gillstedt stayed with Ross and Susan Williford during his year at CVU.
“I really liked the pastries,” he said with a big grin.