This fall, some graduating Clark baseball players will find themselves on another team, in another division, potentially miles from home.
They’re using their sport as a way to access larger pools of scholarships and universities. Head baseball coach Mark Magdaleno, who has previously stressed a “school-comes-first” policy, will see at least five players transfer to four-year universities after graduation.
Clark first baseman and pitcher Brady Johnson will transfer to Hawaii Pacific University in Oahu, accompanied by his teammate, pitcher Nathaniel Affonso, next year to pursue a career as a firefighter. While HPU doesn’t provide fire science degrees, which Johnson wants to obtain, Johnson said he will work toward a criminal justice degree to further his career aspirations.
Johnson said while he hasn’t visited HPU, he selected the school because he respects its baseball team and because the scouts showed interest in his joining the team. “It’s just kinda nice to be wanted,” he said. Johnson said he thinks the experience will be different, but that he is excited. “I get to experience something not many people get to,” he said.
Johnson said his immediate goal is to complete his schooling with as little debt as possible. About 75 percent of his academic costs, including tuition, housing and food is covered by scholarships, with about half of that money coming from baseball-related scholarships, he said.
Magdaleno lent a helping hand to Johnson in his post-Clark plans. “He’s the one that helped me out with the scholarship,” Johnson said. “Mags is a really good promoter of us.”
Outfielder Charles “CJ” Clark Jr., who will transfer to Louisiana State University in Shreveport to pursue a doctorate in pharmacy, echoed Johnson’s concerns over student debt.
Clark said he will receive $17,000 in scholarship money, bringing his annual tuition from $20,000 to $3,000, with $13,000 coming from an out-of-state scholarship and the other $4,000 from athletic and academic scholarships.
Clark said that he enjoys having baseball “as a tool to travel … I would love to go pro or play internationally.” But his current priority is to continue his education to become a pharmacist, a career he’s wanted to pursue since the fifth grade. “I love it so far,” he said. “Even just as a technician.”
Regardless, he has no intention of “taking the uniform off,” as Magdaleno put it. “From practice to playing games, I really enjoy it,” the outfielder said.
Magdaleno, who has coached baseball at Clark College for three years, said that coaching is a synonym for teaching. He said he tries to promote an environment that builds on character and academic skills, as well as baseball skills. “We want solid individuals who represent their families and school in a positive manner,” he said. “Baseball’s secondary to me.”
Magdaleno said the odds against becoming a Major League Baseball player are “astronomical” but that statistically, Clark’s baseball players have already proven themselves by making it to the college level and that their ability to do so while maintaining the grades to play is “a special feat.”
While Magdaleno’s players may harbor aspirations of Major League Baseball careers, “they understand the need for a fallback,” he said.
“We want them to play to the next level and get degrees,” Magdaleno said. “Baseball’s secondary to me. My job is to prepare students to go to the next level, not just athletically.”