An Academic Journey

Dateline: student newspaper

By: Robert Schaich

File Under: athlete, student

It’s a warm, summer Georgia afternoon and a gentle smacking sound reverberates through an apartment complex, originating from the nearby carwash bay. A lone nine-year-old boy throws another baseball at the side wall, claiming victory for his team in the make believe scenario that he has created for himself.

For many youths, this would be nothing more than a few fun filled hours of entertainment to pass the summer days, but for Chase Stevens, this was the beginning of a journey—a journey that would be 10 plus years in the making, all in the pursuit to find one’s self.

When one sees Chase Stevens walking down the hallways of the College of Mount St. Joseph, one sees a student athlete confident not only of his abilities on the pitcher’s mound, but also of his abilities in the classroom.

But it wasn’t always this way. It wasn’t until the age of nine that Stevens knew what he wanted to do in life.

“I didn’t start playing ball until I was nine years old,” Stevens reminisces, “My brother Carter and I would play together at our grandparents place when we visited them that summer in Marietta, Georgia.”

It was the beginning of a dream, a dream that he was going to have to work at.

“I wasn’t really that good starting out, Carter was a lot better.”

This fact didn’t deter Stevens and with an admirable mentality for a nine-year-old boy, he set out to prove the old homage, practice makes perfect.

“I would create these scenarios in my head,” Stevens remembers, “And pick a spot on the car wash bay wall at our grandparents’ apartment complex and attempt to hit that spot over and over.”

And practice did make perfect. By the time Stevens got to high school, he made his freshman baseball team and only a year later found himself a pitcher on the varsity team.

“I was the only sophomore to be on the varsity team,” remarked Stevens, “I’m still in disbelief when I look back on it.”

His success didn’t stop there.  In 2010 his determination and strong work ethic earned him a scholarship to Tusculum College in Greenville, Tenn., one of the top Division II schools at the time, according to Stevens.

While attending college as a means to an end to further his baseball career, in time it reawakened another passion in Stevens’ life. When it came time to declare a major, Stevens fell back onto another interest, English.

“I always read from the time I was three,” he says, “As I got older, most books I read were about baseball, but eventually I started to see poetry as a metaphor in baseball and it made me think.”

His interest would soon turn into a second passion, thanks in large part to Professor Wayne Thomas, who taught a creative writing course during Stevens’ first semester at Tusculum.

By the professor’s demeanor, it was easy to tell that he wasn’t thrilled with the mentality of some of Stevens’ teammates who were also in the class, but after seeing his work and listening to his comments in class, Wayne Thomas found Stevens to be an outstanding exception.

“I remember one day Professor Thomas said to me in front of the whole class, ‘Chase, you are a great representative of the baseball program here at this college,’” recalls Stevens smiling, “It really gave me confidence.”

This confidence was also met with new friendships. Stevens found a new group of friends to associate with who shared his love of the language arts. One of these friends worked for the school paper at the time and got Stevens a position on the paper to write sports features.

“When I saw my first article published in the paper, it made me feel like a rock star,” says Stevens.

But while Stevens was creating new and exciting bonds with people who shared his major, he was becoming more and more of the exile with his teammates during practice and games.

“I would want to talk about sports history with them, but they just wanted to talk about partying and other things,” recalls Stevens.

As the ostracizing from his teammates continued, he also began to notice another troubling trend. He was being played less and less for reasons that he still isn’t sure of today. When this was coupled with the fact that he was severely homesick by this time and missed his girlfriend back in Ohio, Stevens’ conviction to stay at Tusculum College was waning.

That following summer a chance conversation with a summer baseball coach opened up an alternative to the already dismal scene at Tusculum. Stevens’ summer coach was also a coach at the College of Mount St. Joseph at the time and believed that Stevens would make an excellent addition to the student body and sports program.

This was a decision that he had to weigh carefully. If Stevens made the transition, he would be leaving a Division II school for a Division III institution, but he would be close to home with family and his girlfriend.

After considering his options, Stevens decided the transition was worth it and in the fall of 2012 became a student at the College of Mount St. Joseph.

Almost right away though, Stevens was met with setbacks. Before his first year was up, he was told that he may not be eligible to play ball for the Mount right away. While this eventually panned out in his favor, he also witnessed family move away and broke up with his girlfriend, losing two of the biggest reasons that he had come to his new school.

Even while facing this adversity, Stevens remained optimistic about becoming a MSJ Lion and found comfort in his own personal writing and academics.

“Coming to the Mount was a good decision,” enthusiastically recalls Stevens, “The teachers here are supportive, teach well, and really boost my confidence.”

According to the College of Mount St. Joseph’s website, the English department’s goal is to have students “develop critical thinking skills, writing skills, learn to see all sides of an issue, and develop a creative voice.”

These are all things that Stevens not only strives for, but enjoys pursuing by his demeanor.

When sitting down and talking with Chase Stevens, it is impossible not to see his enthusiasm, not just for baseball, but also for the language arts. His academic advisor, Professor Elizabeth Mason, perhaps knows this better than anyone else.

“Chase has an enthusiasm that is infectious when he approaches material,” she says.

Mason is familiar with Stevens’ story and says that it is one she has seen before. “Student athletes want to come to school to play baseball, wrestling, etc., but find more of an academic reason to stay. That is the magic of education,” she says.

And Stevens has found more of a reason to stay. Along with going for his bachelor’s in English, he is also studying to obtain his Adolescent to Young Adult Education License and hopes one day to teach students the subject that he loves, a goal that Elizabeth Mason believes he is perfect for.

“A lot of high school students need a teacher like Chase,” she explains, “A teacher that has a passion for the subject and make it easier for them to approach the material.”

With all of this going on Stevens still hasn’t forgotten his other love of baseball. He is already mentally and physically preparing for the next season, a season that may be his last, he admits. The reason: he wants to make time for student teaching next year.

“If this is my last year playing ball,” Stevens says, “Then I want to have fun doing it and I think I will because now there will be a lot less stress on me.”

So where does a student like Stevens, who has worked so hard to achieve his dreams and endured the hardships along the way, go from here? The sky appears to be the limit.

Stevens continues to perfect his craft of writing, especially in the field of poetry where he has had two poems published in the College’s literary arts magazine, Lions On- Line. He hopes to take this experience even further and one day become a bestselling novelist.

“If I’ve learned anything,” Stevens says, “It’s that a person needs to pursue their passion in life, but at the same time they shouldn’t close themselves off to other possibilities.”

No matter what he faces down the road, one thing is for sure—Stevens will meet it with the same enthusiasm and integrity that he has displayed in the classroom and on the baseball diamond. Now, he’ll just have the ability to turn it into one great inspirational story.