Rare Form: Major League Baseball Players With College Degrees

Big league baseball is known for 100-mph fastballs and one of the most exciting post-season formats in all of professional sports. What it’s not known for is college education. STATS LLC., a global sports statistics firm, found in 2012 that only 39 MLB players possessed a four-year college degree. That amounts to only 4.3 percent of all major league players, which is well below the estimated 50 percent of NFL players who have earned degrees. However, the NFL does require players to be at least three years removed from high school before they are eligible to be drafted, while baseball players can sign contracts with MLB teams as soon as they graduate high school.

Student athletes tend to cluster together in particular majors, further separating themselves from the general school population, according to USA Today. The online classroom, and schools like Penn Foster, have opened up more possibilities to athletes who crave a specific education that might be off the traditional jock course. Interested in business management? You can do it online, before or after practice. Even with these new opportunities though, few big leaguers take advantage of it. That is what makes these five players all the more impressive.

John Axford

The “Ax Man” has done a little bit of everything in this life including bartending and selling cell phones. Born in Simcoe, Ontario, Axford was selected 219th overall by the Seattle Mariners in 2001. But instead of entering professional baseball at age 18, he decided to accept an athletic scholarship to Notre Dame. He earned his degree in film studies and has put it to great use. Axford, currently a closer for the Milwaukee Brewers, is known for his witty and clever tweets. He accurately predicted 11 of the 13 Oscar winners in 2011, which substantially boosted his Twitter following.

Allen Craig

Lance Berkman left the Cardinals in 2012 for a one-year, $10 million deal with the Texas Rangers. This opened the door for Allen Craig to take over as the full-time first baseman in St. Louis. Craig’s patience was tested his first three years in the league, and likely strengthened by his college education. Craig played four seasons at the University of California Berkeley and earned his degree in social welfare in the process. He likely won’t need his degree after signing a $31 million contract extension last March, but Craig told USA Today when his playing days are over, he’s prepared to do a lot of different things in the community.

John Mayberry, Jr.

The Phillies grew up with baseball, being his dad is John Mayberry Sr., formerly of the Kansas City Royals. But the 6’6” outfielder had to decide in high school whether he wanted to pursue basketball or baseball. He was so good swinging the bat, the Seattle Mariners selected him No. 28 overall in the 2002 draft. Mayberry passed on the chance of making millions and instead enrolled at Stanford University with a full athletic scholarship. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2005. The Texas Rangers selected him No. 19 overall in that year’s draft.

Sam Fuld and Jed Lowrie

Stanford was pretty good from 2003-04, not only because of Mayberry, but also teammates Sam Fuld and Jed Lowrie. The Cardinal won the 2004 PAC-10 championship and produced three major leaguers whom all earned their degrees. Fuld was a Third Team All-American, but more importantly earned a bachelor’s degree in economics with a 3.15 GPA. He is currently an outfielder for the Oakland Athletics. Lowrie was a First Team All-American in both 2004 and 2005 before earning his degree in political science. He and Fuld are teammates once again in Oakland.

Written by: George Swift

George went to college on a baseball scholarship, but he blew his knee out senior year and that was that. Now he’s a financial planner who helps families get and stay out of debt.

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