Hitting an Academic Home Run
Every Monday at 1:40 p.m., MDC’s baseball team gathers in the dugout for some serious talk. But this has nothing to do with baseball. It’s about something more far-reaching – the players’ academics.
MDC Coach Danny Price decided this spring to take an innovative approach to having his team excel in their studies. Bringing the same healthy, competitive team spirit to training his athletes’ minds as well as their bodies, he created a program in which they report to each other on their classroom progress.
After all, the MDC baseball program has been one of the best in collegiate history, placing hundreds of players in the Major Leagues and preparing other student athletes for top positions in the corporate world. Overall, MDC sports teams have captured 33 national titles, so now Price wanted the team upping scores in the classroom as well.
The coach decided to name players Dixon Llorens, Mike Heller, Ronald Lozada, Mike Carballo, Eric Jhones and Tyler Bodwitch as the “academic captains.” Next, a “draft” was held and captains took turns choosing top players for their academic teams.
Practice Makes Perfect
“We have meetings and study sessions each week,” Lozada said. “As captain, I make sure everyone in our group keeps up with homework and class attendance.”
Added Jhones: “It’s a great idea. I knew it would help everybody. So far we’re all getting better grades.”
During the Monday dugout meetings, the players initially acted as if they were reporting to their coach, facing him instead of each other. But Price fixed that right away.
Accountable to Peers
The idea behind the program, Price said, was that positive peer pressure would spur better results than reprimands from the coach.
Price happily reported, “Now we don’t have players missing class, because if they did, they would be called out in front of their peers.”
As an extra incentive, the group that fares best each week gets to choose the restaurant where the players eat after road games.
Following a few weeks of hit and miss, Price discovered that the key to the program, just as in the game of baseball itself, is to have an eye for selecting the perfect captains.
“I looked for players who were responsible academically,” he said.
“I needed players whom the other guys would listen to and follow. I feel very good about where we’re at now.”