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Baseball alumnus killed in Tuesday plane crash near Lincoln

Bradley baseball alumnus Mitch Janssen, 22 of Princeville, was allegedly one of three killed in a plane crash in Lincoln, Illinois on Tuesday morning. The Bradley baseball team posted a memorial tweet on Wednesday afternoon confirming Janssen’s death. Photo via Scout archive.

 Illinois State Police confirmed on Wednesday that Bradley baseball alumnus Mitch Janssen, 22 of Princeville, was among the three killed in a plane crash in Lincoln, Illinois on March 3. 

According to the state police, Janssen was the pilot of the single-engine Cessna 172 airplane that crashed into the southbound lanes of Interstate 55 near I-155 and Illinois Routes 10 and 121. Matthew Hanson, 33 of Pulaski, Wisconsin, and Kevin Chapman, 30 of Urbana, all perished in the crash. 

Janssen graduated from Bradley in May of 2019 with a degree in family consumer science. He played on the Bradley baseball team from 2016 to 2019 as a right-handed pitcher. 

“We lost a great one. Not a good one, but a great one,” Bradley baseball head coach Elvis Dominguez said on Wednesday afternoon. “In all my 33 years of coaching, I can tell you that he’s at the top. He was one of the most selfless individuals I’ve ever had the honor of coaching.” 

Janssen earned his pilot’s license as a 17-year-old and was the youngest person in the world certified to fly the Embraer Phenom 100 multi-engine jet. He flew commercial aircraft for Air Wisconsin Airlines, a regional career for United Airlines, worked as a charter pilot part-time and served as a flight instructor at Synergy Flight Center and Byerly Aviation, according to his Facebook account. In 2018 he purchased his own personal airplane. 

At Princeville High School, Janssen was a four-year letterman in baseball, basketball and football. He was a three-time McDonald’s all-star as a two way player in baseball. Janssen was named to the All-Missouri Valley Conference 2nd team in 2019 and was one of the “Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Players of the Week” in the 2018 conference season. 

Dominguez said Janssen stood out in recruiting because of his passion for athletics and his selflessness. 

“He was everything that a coach would want in an athlete, everything a parent would want in a son, and somebody I wanted to represent my program,” Dominguez said. “I did everything I could possibly do to try to get him here.” 

Janssen arrived on campus in the fall of 2015 along with other baseball players from the Peoria area who played on the Central Illinois Outlaws, a summer league team, all of whom have been key parts of the Braves’ recent success. Having that core of seven players was special to Dominguez. 

“He was such a good friend and brought so many different people together, like he brought so many different friend groups together just because of how outgoing he was and open … there was never really a dull moment with him,” said Luke Mangieri, Janssen’s roommate for three years at Bradley.

Mangieri, a current position player in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, teamed with Janssen the summer of their high school sophomore year up until Mangieri was drafted following their junior seasons with the Braves. 

Cole Cook, a friend of Janssen since their freshman year in high school, said that Janssen had the ability to foster connections and friendships. 

“He could have a party and invite people from his hometown, and have baseball guys over at the same time and everything seemed normal because Mitch was the guy that glued everyone together,” said Cook, a left-handed pitcher who graduated from Bradley in 2019. 

The Bradley baseball team carved Janssen’s initials and his jersey number into the pitcher’s mound at Dozer Park on Wednesday. Photo via Dan Bolt.

 Janssen was mainly a starting pitcher at Bradley and helped the team to back-to-back 30-win seasons in 2018 and 2019. He was awarded the Mike Dunne Award as the best pitcher on the Braves in the 2019 season and finished his senior season with a 2.06 earned run average, the third-lowest for a Brave since 1974. He also led the Missouri Valley Conference in ERA, batting average against (.199). 

Andy Shadid, a four-year starting center fielder for the Braves who graduated last May, knew Janssen from the age of 15 and said he made everyone he knew a better person. 

 “Every time he stepped on the mound you knew he was in the zone and knowing that he was confident and composed, made everyone else confident and composed,” Shadid said. 

Cook said that Janssen had an infectious personality and was someone people wanted to be around. He considered him a brother, especially after spending every day of the summer before their junior season doing a throwing program together. 

“Mitch was basically the life of the party. He was always so full of energy and truly lived life to the fullest,” Cook said. 

Dominguez said that losing a player is like losing a relative. 

“You can’t learn this in a book, you can’t learn this in a class, but when you get so attached to these guys it really is a tough thing to let go,” Dominguez said. “We never shake hands, we always hug, that’s just my rule, because it’s a family.” 

Following the season, Janssen had the opportunity to play professionally but decided to forgo it to pursue his true passion of flying. Cook said that it was something he wanted to do from a young age. 

Dominguez said that he would like to honor Janssen in a commemorative fashion, but he hasn’t decided how to yet. He will let his club of 32 players and the many alumni decide the best way to do so. 

The team decided to cancel its three-game series with Kentucky for this weekend so that the team can attend Janssen’s memorial service. 

“I think the world and the people he touched are better because of meeting him,” Cook said. “Everything he did, he did with a passion and no regret.” 

Additionally, Janssen left life lessons for others to follow. 

“He taught me how to accept everyone for who they are and taught me to live life to the fullest,” Shadid said. “He helped shape me into the man I am today, and I think a lot of people can say the same thing for themselves … I’m grateful to have been his brother for the last eight years.” 


This article has been updated as more information was made available. Below is the original version of the article published Wednesday afternoon.

Illinois State Police has identified on Wednesday that Bradley baseball alumnus Mitch Janssen, 22 of Princeville, was one of three killed in a plane crash in Lincoln, Illinois on Tuesday morning.

According to the state police, Janssen was on board when the single-engine plane crashed into the southbound lanes of Interstate 55 near I-155 and Illinois Routes 10 and 121.

Janssen graduated from Bradley in May of 2019 with a degree in Family Consumer Science. He played on the Bradley baseball team from 2016 to 2019 as a right-handed pitcher. 

Janssen earned his pilot’s license as a 17-year-old and was the the youngest person in the world certified to fly the Embraer Phenom 100 multi-engine jet. He flew commercial aircrafts and served as a charter pilot for Air Wisconsin Airlines and worked as a flight instructor at Synergy Flight Center and Byerly Aviation, according to his Facebook account. In 2018 he purchased his own personal airplane. 

At Princeville High School, Janssen was a four-year letterman in baseball, basketball and football. He was a three-time McDonald’s all-star as a two way player in baseball. Janssen was named to the All-Missouri Valley Conference 2nd team in 2019, was the “Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Players of the Week” for March 26, 2018. He was awarded the Mike Dunne Award as the best pitcher on the Braves in the 2019 season. He finished his senior season with a 2.06 earned run average, the third lowest for a Brave since 1974. He also led the MVC in ERA, batting average against (.199).

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