“And me, Sac City Junior College,” pitcher Ryan Mattheus said with a grin.
In major league baseball, it’s rare to find an assortment of players with such educational backgrounds. A Fox Sports survey last season found that only 39 major leaguers, or 4.3 percent, graduated from four-year universities. That is a product of the system: Baseball players can be drafted out of high school, talent can be found in the international market and Division I baseball is a partial-scholarship sport.
So is the Nationals’ collection of smarty pants a bit of trivia, or a hidden success factor? Baseball is an intricate and highly detailed sport, and some players argue that their developed critical analysis skills are helpful.
“People might say I’m analytical when it comes to my preparation as far as scouting reports, studying video and looking at the numbers and stats and stuff,” said Young, who signed with the Nationals three weeks ago to serve as starting rotation depth. “But I’d say that’s really the only way. I try to be a baseball player and be one of the guys.”
Several others disagreed. Asked how much his education has helped him in the major leagues, Rhymes said: “Absolutely not. I haven’t used much of my biology degree here.”
Rhymes, who along with Ohlendorf is a non-roster invitee to Nationals camp, considered attending medical school if baseball didn’t pan out after 2005, his senior year at William & Mary.
“I don’t know what job I can get with that,” he said before adding: “I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I took a serious major in college and took it seriously. It was important to me to at least to keep my options open.”
Storen, 25, who spent two years at Stanford pursing a degree in product design before he was drafted by the Nationals with the 10th overall pick in 2009, wants to finish his degree when he finishes playing baseball. Players such as him and Zimmerman, a sociology major who left Virginia after three seasons in 2005, could have cost themselves millions by staying in school to finish their degrees.
Storen said what he learned in the classroom doesn’t translate onto the field, but playing at a high-level program did.
“Playing in the College World Series is as close as you can get to playing in the big leagues without playing the big leagues,” he said. “. . . It’s not like I was doing a kinesiology [class] that directly related to over here. I didn’t really take any of those classes. It’s interesting. Sometimes with this game you can over think it and you need to turn that part of your brain off anyways.”