Giving “Student-Athlete” A New Meaning
Laurel Wilder | On 21, Nov 2013
Growing up, the last thing anyone wanted to do during a break was schoolwork. Whether it was a holiday break, a long weekend, or summer vacation, schoolwork was usually the last thing on a kid’s mind. Instead, days off and breaks were meant for relaxing, enjoying friends and family, and (if talking about summer break), taking in a baseball game or two.
As kids, it was hard to wrap your head around the fact that, even though you were on vacation and watching that game for fun and as a special treat for being out of school, the people playing the game were not granted that same luxury. Players were entertaining us during our downtime – despite not being granted much downtime of their own.
Thus, when thinking about the ways in which players spend their off-season, it’s nice to imagine that they’re taking in life the same way you did as a kid during time off. It’s nice to think that your favorite player is getting some time to relax and enjoy his favorite activities and, hopefully, spend some time at home with his friends and family, as well.
However, the reality is that, for many players, the off-season does not serve as the “do nothing” break that vacations did for children. In fact, players seem to be just as busy during the off-season as they are during the jam packed days they spend with their teams from spring through fall.
Major League players have shorter off-seasons than minor league players due to the length of the regular season, which leaves minor league players with more time to pursue their out-of-baseball interests during the winter months. In a decision that may shock people, especially those who can’t imagine spending valuable detox-time doing additional demanding work, many minor league players return to school to continue working on or finish up obtaining their degrees.
As a number of baseball players are drafted out of college, they have not had the chance to complete their entire college career and earn their degree. With the season ending right after the school years begins in late August and early September, the timing could not be more convenient for many players to return to campus and take necessary classes. As the semester ends in December, the timing is again incredibly convenient to begin preparing for spring training within the subsequent months.
A few players in the Indians system have returned to school during the 2013 fall semester, including Jimmy Stokes, who is taking classes at Elon University in North Carolina, and Nick Hamilton, who is earning his second degree at Kent State University in Ohio.
Hamilton was able to earn his business management degree last spring and is now finishing his degree in finance. He was drafted after his senior year at Kent State in 2012, giving him a slight academic advantage over students and players who were drafted earlier in their college careers.
Not only did playing college baseball give Hamilton a chance to hone his skills on the field, including earning the opportunity to play with the Kent State baseball team in the 2012 College World Series, he was also able to learn valuable time management skills that serve him well in balancing life as a student and an athlete.
In college, the term “student-athlete” is bounced around on a regular basis to describe students who not only attend class, but are members of sports’ teams, as well. In the case of Hamilton and Stokes, however, the two add a different definition to the term. They act as athletes who, in their free time, pursue an alternate career as a student.
Hamilton said he does not find it hard to balance the demands of playing a professional sport and attending school. Although players still must commit to a demanding workout schedule during the off-season, Hamilton said managing obligations effectively is key.
“You just have to be disciplined and have a plan each day,” Hamilton said of his approach to his off-season schedule. “My experience as a college player helps me out a lot with time management.”
Hamilton commutes a few times a week from his family’s house in Avon Lake, Ohio, to Kent State’s main campus for class. Although the back-and-forth drive may seem demanding, it is nothing compared to the long road trips taken throughout the season for games around the Midwest.
No stranger to life with a rigorous schedule, Hamilton still manages to find time to relax during his months away from the diamond. He said his favorite part of the off-season has been spending time with his family, though he is quick to add that the end of the Major League baseball season in Cleveland was certainly an added bit of excitement. Hamilton was in attendance at a number of the Indians’ final games of 2013, including the Wild Card game on October 2.
“It was cool to see how Cleveland reacted to the Indians’ run at the end of the season,” Hamilton said.
For Hamilton, the Indians’ season can hold special meaning. During the season, he is among their ranks as a minor league outfielder and, during the off-season, he is another college student in the stands, cheering on his hometown team – and hoping he has enough time after the game to finish his homework and still get enough sleep for class the next day.
Photo: Kent State Baseball