Athletics News

Baseball

Skipjacks hitting books as well as balls
Chesapeake College baseball team making the grade in the classroom

WYE MILLS – Chesapeake College’s baseball team is just as big a hit in the classroom as on the ball field.

Ten Skipjacks – Gary Blackledge, James Corriveau, Mike Liddell, Andrew Markey, Nick Hardy, Jesse Savage, Ben Newport, J.V. Herbert, Chris Beaver, and Steven Aaron – achieved at least a 3.0 ("B") quality-point average on a 4.0 scale during the Fall 2007 semester. Nine of the 10 are freshmen, including four –Blackledge, Corriveau, Liddell, and Markey – who posted 3.5 or better quality-point averages in their first college semester.

Frank Szymanski, Chesapeake’s athletic director and head baseball coach, said he was impressed with the academic accomplishments of each player.

"For the freshmen to come here and have that type of success during their initial college semester is very impressive," said Szymanski. "I’m also very proud of J.V. Herbert, who not only had a 3.0 last fall but is on schedule to graduate this spring.

"And it’s not just those 10 who are doing solid academic work," added Szymanski. "We had a lot close behind with 2.8s and 2.7s – kids in challenging classes who didn’t get A’s or B’s, but put in the time and effort to get through a lab science or a tough math course."

The players said the team commitment to academics starts at the top.

"Every day on our daily team schedule you see baseball and homework," said Blackledge, who had a team-leading 3.8 QPA during the fall semester.

Corriveau, close behind Blackledge with a 3.7 QPA, agreed.

"Coach says education is his No. 1 priority because it’s got to be about more than just playing baseball – it’s about our future, too," said Corriveau.

While Szymanski praised his players’ commitment – "Those grades are the result of a lot of hard work, time management and dedication on their part" – he noted the success is also the result of a team effort larger than just the baseball team.

"There are a lot of other people who also play a role in their success," said Szymanski of the high-achieving Skipjacks. "It’s also due to the tremendous faculty and support staff we have at Chesapeake and the structure that is in place to support the students.

"I think the academic supports we have at Chesapeake – Freshman Seminar Course (an extended-orientation course required for freshmen), our Academic Support Center, tutoring, faculty mentoring – all play important parts in creating an atmosphere where students can achieve," said Szymanski.

Szymanski said Dr. Ed Baker, a professor of kinesiology who advises and mentors student athletes, and head men’s basketball coach John Mappas, a retired high school math teacher who tutors student athletes in that subject, are two important academic connections for student athletes.

"Having someone like Dr. Baker to help with scheduling and advising, and someone like Coach Mappas to help students succeed in math – one of the toughest areas for most students – are both critical to our student athletes’ academic success," said Szymanski.

Both Blackledge and Corriveau said it’s not always easy being a college student and participating in intercollegiate athletics.

"It can be tough. I just try to manage my time. Every day after practice I’m doing some kind of schoolwork," said Blackledge.

"We just have to make sure schoolwork is always our No. 1 focus," said Corriveau. "We worry about baseball second."

Szymanski said laying out an academic plan for freshman student athletes is a key to making sure they start off on the right foot.

"When they meet with me, Dr. Baker, and the advising staff, we develop a plan on how they will progress throughout their two years," said Szymanski. " Some students are looking for a degree; others looking for transferable hours to four-year colleges and universities. We want to work with students to help them achieve their goals. The foundation is there for success with absolutely outstanding, college-wide support."

Dr. Baker said Szymanski sets the tone for his team’s academic achievements.

"Frank has done a great job in recruiting true student athletes," said Dr. Baker. "Then we make sure we have the academic scheduling, tutoring, and required study halls in place. The institution places a great emphasis on academics."

Szymanski said the Chesapeake philosophy is to look beyond just athletics.

"We want to prepare them athletically, academically, and socially for their future," said Szymanski. "That’s more important, in the long run, than just what takes place on the field."

Photo caption: Ten Chesapeake College baseball players finished the fall semester with a 3.0 quality-point average or better. Standing, left to right: Steven Aaron, Andrew Markey, Jesse Savage, Gary Blackledge, and Nick Hardy. Kneeling, left to right: J.V. Herbert, James Corriveau, Mike Liddell, Ben Newport, and Chris Beaver.

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