February 23, 2013

A Walk in the Cleats of a College Baseball Player: Life as a Collegiate Athlete

By - Jaquan Murphy

Life as a college athlete is always glorified as an easy lifestyle where everything is done for the athlete and he or she is spoon fed through four (or however long they stay) years of school. There may be a few institutions where that's how it is, but in most cases, that glorified life only exists on television.

For the next several weeks, I will give a firsthand account of the life of a college athlete, and what it's like playing baseball in the unpredictable northeast region of the country.

Photo by: Getty Images
I play for the City College of New York, a four-year Division III school located in New York City. Although we are only a D3 school, our offseasons are just as grueling as a D1's are. We are placed under high expectations to take care of our bodies and rehab any injuries from the prior season or from our brief fall ball season.

In addition, we are expected to follow a rigorous workout plan that embraces strength training, agility and cardio workouts. It is not just expected that we come back in good shape, it is demanded that we come back in better shape. As a team, we workout together in groups as a way to make the workouts more productive by pushing each other to our limits to better ourselves overall.

Along with the workouts, we are expected to make use of our facilities. In other words, use of our batting cages and gymnasium in order for our hitters to work on flaws in anything from their swing to their stance or even their approach, and for our pitchers to do the same with their mechanics. This is also time for our pitchers to master their pitch repertoire and even work on adding new pitches.

This time of the year is great for both hitters and pitchers to learn their craft from players of similar positions and players on the other end of the spectrum. For example, this would be the only time where a pitcher can get direct feedback from a hitter on how his pitch moves, how his delivery is from a hitter's standpoint, and how hard his pitches are really coming in. On the other hand, this is a perfect time for a hitter to get feedback from pitchers on how a pitcher would approach pitching to him based on things like his size, stance, place in the lineup and swing. The pitching-hitting dynamic is a mind game, and the offseason is the best time to gain a competitive edge.

Above all, the primary objective in the offseason is to stay academically eligible. As cliche as it sounds, a player is called a student-athlete for a reason. The 'student' comes before 'athlete' because without the proper grades, there will be no athlete. Generally, the difficulty of an athlete's academic workload will depend on his class year.

Freshmen will generally tend to have a schedule with a lot of core classes (math, science, history, etc.) along with a class geared for freshmen just to help get them acclimated to college life. Sophomores will usually have the remainder of their core classes (if any) and a mix of classes in their major (if they have declared a major) and/or electives. Juniors will tend to have a schedule loaded with classes in their major. As a junior, a major should be declared so an athlete would know exactly what they have to do academically. Finally, seniors will be rounding out their major's classes and knocking out electives and any required internships depending on their major.

The academic part is usually the killer for a lot of players. However, as a college athlete, getting help is more than accessible. There is usually help available through the school's athletic department, the actual subject's department and even from the professor in some cases. The NCAA requires all student-athletes to maintain a 2.0 grade point average to be eligible to play in his or her season.

Athletes do have their down time in the offseason. That span is usually the time when they get to spend the most time with their family, friends and significant other. That perception of athletes being "rock stars" all depends on the sport and the school. In the northeast, more specifically, in New York, baseball players do not really get that celebrity feel as say a football player at a southern school would get. They are recognized and respected but not on a celebrity 'everyone stops and stares' level like some sports are portrayed.

In all, a college baseball player's offseason in the northeast is pretty simple. The cold weather makes it hard to go outside and do work so the down time basically consists of work in the weight room, whatever facilities the school has available and the classroom. A northeast offseason is just the time to get the mind and body right so that when the team reunites in the preseason, each athlete can be ready to show that they have worked to take their game to a level higher than they were the previous season.

Next week we'll take an inside look at the preseason of a college baseball player. Stay tuned!


  1. Not much has changed since I played in 1981-1984. I can tell you, baseball players at EVERY school, regardless of division or part of the country (I played D1 in the Southeast), never reach rock star status like football or basketball players, at least until they are major-leaguers. I'm looking forward to reading your stuff the next few weeks.

  2. Nice article. Took me back to my playing days.

  3. Great stuff. I remember like it was yesterday.