Heading into the final games of their careers at Thomas Nelson, four baseball players discussed how their learning experience hadn’t been confined to the classroom or the sport. The one thing that stood out was how juggling sports and academics helped them with budgeting their time, which they know will be important long after their playing careers are over.
“It’s a lot about time management,” said Dylan Blowe, an infielder studying social science who is on track to become an Academic All-American. “Your weekends are gone … You have to know that this weekend you’re not going to have time to get work done ... There are definitely some long nights.”
Ben Hoare, an outfielder and pitcher who wants to be a mechanical engineer, agreed. “The good thing about being a student-athlete is you learn time management,” he said.
First baseman Reece Walton, who is also studying mechanical engineering, said, “It’s like having a job. Every single day for a few hours, we have a time commitment that you have to be there.”
Brett Moore, another outfielder and pitcher, initially struggled to adjust to the rigors of academics and sports, but soon learned the importance of time management. His first spring at Thomas Nelson, during baseball season, was his toughest.
“Half the time, we would come home from our games and I wouldn’t even do my homework,” he admitted. “I’d just sleep.”
He regrets not working harder in the classroom, but he has learned his lesson, improved his grades and is looking to move on to a four-year school.
Two of the four players are all but certain their college playing days are over, but they accept it and are looking forward to working toward their bachelor’s degrees.
Blowe, who should learn in late May or early June if he’s named an Academic All-American, has a GPA of about 3.7.
“I’m kind of done with baseball. My body’s taken a toll through the years,” said Blowe, who graduated from Woodside High School in Newport News. “It kind of hurts to play a lot now. … I don’t want to play anymore.”
But he’s not giving up on the sport for good. He hopes to become a teacher and baseball coach.
“I’ve just loved baseball, ever since I was little,” he said, adding he hasn’t decided on a four-year school yet but is interested in Old Dominion University.
He credits his parents with stressing the importance of academics.
“My parents instilled it,” he said. “Ever since I was little, it was go to school, do your work.”
Walton, who has a 3.7 cumulative GPA and 3.6 in his major, recently learned he has been accepted to Virginia Tech.
“I applied out of high school (Nansemond-Suffolk Academy) and didn’t get into the engineering program, but they told me I could have gone in undecided,” he said. “I didn’t want to go in undecided because there’s no guarantee they’re going to let you be in the program you want.”
He spent a year at Randolph-Macon and another at Tidewater Community College before transferring to Thomas Nelson. Last year, he earned an all-state academic award. He will concentrate on academics in Blacksburg, and not worry about baseball.
“Most people that get an engineering degree have trouble doing well when they’re just doing engineering,” he said. “On its own, it’s hard. So then you are talking about practicing three hours a day and traveling ...”
He’s hoping it will take him two years to finish his degree.
“I will have done six years of college when I get my bachelor’s, but that’s because I changed majors,” Walton, who started out in pre-med, said with a chuckle.
Hoare, who went to Lee-Davis High School in Mechanicsville, is hoping to play baseball at his next school, even if it’s the club team. He’s been accepted to James Madison University, where he probably will try to make the team as a walk-on.
“I’m really focused on academics,” he said, adding he has a 3.0 GPA at Thomas Nelson. “I’d love to play at the next level.”
He said he could have gone to a four-year school out of high school, but chose the community college route to save money.
“Financially, it was the best choice,” he said.
For Moore, also a graduate of Woodside High School, his goal is to play at a four-year school.
“I want to keep playing baseball. I’m not sure where I want to go yet, but somewhere local,” said Moore, who is considering Virginia Wesleyan University. “I’ll go anywhere that will pretty much have me.”
He originally was studying social science, but after talking with his father, who is a firefighter, he switched to fire science. Now he’s thinking of returning to social science. He would like to be a teacher and coach in high school.
Chad Smith, the coordinator of athletics and associate head baseball coach, is particularly proud of the four, more so for their academic accomplishments than their athletic ones.
“Our motto is ‘Compete to Complete’ because it’s about completing your degree,” he said. “You’re not going to bounce that ball all the time.”