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By Josh Herzenberg - Strasburg Express
1. Being a college student is a lot of work.
2. Holding a part-time job while you are a full-time college student is even more work.
3. Holding a part-time job while you are a full-time college student and playing an NCAA competitive sport is practically suicidal.
Well, welcome to my life.
Let's start with No. 1. A typical college workload consists of taking 15 credit hours per semester. This means that each week, a student is scheduled to be in class and learning for 15 hours. Generally speaking, professors suggest that for every hour you spend in class learning, you should spend two hours outside of class doing work for the learned material. For those who haven't experienced a collegiate environment this seems a bit much ... the inclination that one actually has the study material and the time to do something like this. In reality, there are some weeks where that amount of work isn't required. But the majority of the time, more is required. So let's say that it's safe to assume that the two hours outside of class rule is truthful and followed by the majority of students (I am no 4.0 student, but I would say most of my peers and I spend at least this much time studying and doing assignments). that equates to 30 hours of work outside of the classroom. Combined with the 15 hours in class...that's 45 hours a week. If you work a 9-5 job every Monday-Friday, you'd be five hours short of the time that is required of a typical college student weekly.
No. 2 is more of a personal preference and partially a necessity. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am not afforded the financial comfort that some people are, and I don't have the ability to attend college on my parent's dollar or live off what I've made over the summers (this will be explained later more in depth). Therefore, when I arrived on campus as a freshman, I thought that getting a job was a necessity. I work 12 hours a week in the basement of the library renting out laptops to students and filling printer paper. Sometimes I am able to pick up hours from other coworkers who request their shift be covered, but 12 hours is what I'm scheduled for every week. Added to the numbers in part one, that gives me a 57-hour week thus far.
No. 3 is far and away the biggest time commitment of all three responsibilities I mentioned. As a collegiate student athlete, I estimate that I devote 25 hours a week to baseball during the fall semester (the off-season) and 55 hours a week during the spring semester (in-season). This takes into account the extended amount of time involved in playing games and the frequency of practices in the spring, as well the amount of time spent traveling on buses/planes and nights spent in hotels. If I were to take the average time commitment I've estimated from the fall and spring semesters, it comes out to a cool 40 hours a week.
No. 1 - 45 hours
No. 2 - 12 hours
No. 3 - 40 hours
Total - 97 hours
I am not writing this to complain, nor am I writing this to brag about my ability to time manage. I am writing this to help you, the reader, try to get a glimpse of a typical life of a college baseball player. The Valley League season is coming close (Strasburg opening day: nine days!), and many of you will hopefully be enjoying America's pastime at the local ballpark as you watch these college baseball players perform nightly in front of you. The dedication that is involved in being a student athlete is seemingly impossible. It is a lifestyle commitment, a looming time that can make or break a person's future.
Summer collegiate wood bat leagues are a blessing for us in many ways. It enables us to do what we love ... play baseball ... every single day. It rids us of some of the other responsibilities our lives throw at us on a daily basis and rewards us, for a few months, for the hard work we've put in. It allows kids like me, a northerner from suburban New York City, to experience living in a new place, like rural northern Virginia, or coastal North Carolina where I played last summer. It avails us the opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, learn new cultures.
But summer wood bat leagues are tough on us as well. From the time the spring semester of 2010 started in mid-January until the end of July, I spent a total of 14 hours at home with my family. I skipped out on February break from school because we had practice, and missed spring break because we had games. I got home on May 23 from the NCAA tournament at 5 p.m. and hit the road at 7 a.m. on May 24 for Morehead City, N.C. I'd stay there until Aug. 7, when I went home for two more weeks before heading back up to school to assume my prior listed responsibilities until my next break ... a week for Thanksgiving.
A few days ago I was at my sister's high school softball game when I struck up a conversation with one of the parents of her opponent. They asked me why I do what I do ... why do I spend so much time away from home and "chasing a dream?" It was an innocent enough question. And the answer is a one-sentence, simplified answer that could be analyzed for days.
"Because I love it."
I encourage you to approach a baseball player in the Valley League this summer, or any other collegiate student athlete that you may come across and pose that question to them. "Why do you do what you do?" I can pretty much guarantee, with 100% confidence, that they will give you an answer that is some form of a variation of "because I love it."
The dedication and time commitment that is required in becoming a collegiate student athlete is immense and troublesome. It is as if you have two full-time jobs. The difficulty of a baseball player's inclination to leave his home life behind and travel to an unknown place with unknown people for an entire summer is questionable and at the surface, odd. But it is what we do. It is what we want to do, it is what we have done, and it is what we will continue to do.
The life of a college baseball player is rarely glamorous. Many people have had the opportunity to enjoy the jubilation of their favorite team winning an exciting game, or the agony of a tough loss. Not many people fully comprehend the going-ons behind the scenes of a college baseball player's life. When you turn on the television and watch U.Va. play on immaculate fields in front of thousands of crazy ACC baseball fans, it is beautiful at the surface. When you witness David, VCU, beat up on every Goliath in front of them en route to the Final Four, it is beautiful at the surface. When you have the opportunity to see Va. Tech football players drafted into the NFL every year after performing in front of tens of thousands of fans at Lane Stadium (three draft picks for the Hokies in '11), it is beautiful at the surface.
This is an invitation inside the other side of college athletics, the unpublicized, undocumented journey through final exams, morning practices and summers away from home. The glamour on display in all the specified examples above (my apologies if I failed to acknowledge your favorite team, or acknowledged your rival) comes with a price. A price few are willing to pay. It is a long winding road to success, and for some reason, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow always seems a lot bigger after the work ethic is carried out.
A friend of mine from Connecticut recently wrote a book that somewhat highlights the intricacies of the college baseball game and all that it comes with. He was fortunate enough to enjoy a four-year career at a Division I institution in New York, the very well-respected Binghamton University. It is very difficult to understand the time commitment that is required to compete at this level, but I believe he did so very well. For more information, I encourage all of you to visit the webpage for Ken Jacobi's new book, www.goingwiththepitch.com. It provides an in-depth look at some of the things I've discussed here, and provides real life examples of the four-year roller coaster that is college athletics.
So please, come out and watch some Valley League games this summer. Bring your family and friends, grab a hot dog and a Coke. Sit back and relax and enjoy the festivities in front of you. The entertainment fans get from the game is what is ultimately the most gratifying for the players, because all the hours of work that we have put in for all those years is finally starting to pay off. It is truly a fabulous aspect of America's pastime, a blue-collar game for the pleasure of those who desire it. And after all, that's why we do it..."Because I love it."