The unnoticed commitments of Michigan baseball

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 - 6:21pm

Senior shortstop Michael Brdar in a game against UIC at the Wilpon Complex in March 2016.

Senior shortstop Michael Brdar in a game against UIC at the Wilpon Complex in March 2016. Buy this photo
Evan Aaron/Daily

 

This past Sunday, while most of the Michigan student body migrated to various destinations for Spring Break, the members of the Michigan baseball team lived out the boyhood dream of playing at Dodger Stadium. 

There, the Wolverines defeated San Diego 3-1 and ended an eight game West Coast road trip where Michigan went 7-1 and improved their overall record to 9-3.

Opportunities such as playing at a professional ballpark are an amazing perk of being a Division I athlete. However, there is much that goes unnoticed in the lives of student-athletes; for example, staying at school to compete while others go home during school vacations. Often, spectators overlook the atypical and busy lives that student-athletes endure.  

Senior shortstop Michael Brdar embodies this, noting that playing at Dodger Stadium was certainly a highlight, though he also enjoyed spending time with his teammates and close friends.

“Off the field, we got to spend some time at Venice Beach and Muscle Beach,” Brdar said. “That was pretty fun. We (also) got to go to In-N-Out (Burger) a lot.”

Beyond the fun trips, student-athletes' commitment to both their athletics and their academic coursework is often overlooked. The daily rigors of being a student-athlete is a variance from the typical college experience.

A standard day in the life of a Michigan baseball player potentially could include a morning practice, a full day of class, an afternoon practice and/or weight training and for some, mandatory study table hours.

And while the NCAA mandates that student-athletes cannot practice more than four hours per day and 20 hours in a given week, athletes’ time commitment is ultimately much greater. The given time allotment does not include factors such as competition, travel to practice, team meetings, training table sessions, study hall hours and various appearances.

When examining the actual hours that go into being a student-athlete, the workload is comparable to a full-time job, which also includes being a full-time student. Sophomore second baseman Ako Thomas points out that his busy schedule leaves him drained and he uses his limited leisure time to recharge.

“I usually try to catch up on rest,” Thomas said. “We’re always busy. In the down time we do get, we usually hang out with each other or try and catch up on some sleep.”

In addition, the packed schedules of student-athletes hinders their ability to get involved in other school activities and typical college experiences. Rarely do student-athletes have time to participate in university clubs or organizations, such as Central Student Government or Greek life.

In addition to the pride of playing, Brdar explains how the past few years at Michigan have taught him time management, work ethic and teamwork. These are skills that he recognizes will help him in not only his baseball career, but also beyond.

“We have over thirty guys that you have to communicate with, you have to have fun with, you have to get your work done with,” Brdar said.

Certain experiences as a student-athlete cannot be replicated, such as the relationships and connections that are developed. For Brdar, these irreplaceable moments happen when he travels with the team.

“There are things that you’ll never forget,” Brdar said. “Like when we are on the road, rooming with Ako. Traveling with the team is always just a fun time. I think (these moments are) something that I’ll definitely carry with me for a long time.”