Baseball Student-Athletes Become First Graduates in Class of 2017
Gregg Ritchie's first recruiting class reaches the pinnacle of their academic careers in Athletics Commencement Ceremony
Twenty minutes before the most prestigious moment of their adult lives to date, earning a degree from The George Washington University, 14 members of the GW baseball team sat in the green room of the Betts Theater at the Marvin Center.
The only thing that alluded to the impending ceremony, the first such event during GW's Commencement Week, was the presence of caps, gowns and sashes. Beyond that, it seemed like a baseball locker room or dugout minutes before a game. There was upbeat southern rock and country playing from a nearby phone, story swapping, friendly teasing and the occasional uproar of laughter.
For a group of seniors that has spent nearly every day together over the past four years, this was just another step in the journey.
Gregg Ritchie's first-ever recruiting class featured 20 incoming student-athletes. Four years later, the 14 that were honored on Tuesday afternoon have a lot to look back on and to be proud of.
Entering this weekend's regular-season finale, the senior class has helped the program to 115 victories, a pair (and hopefully trio) of postseason appearances, lived through dramatic wins and heartbreaking losses, broke program records, accomplished program firsts and in the end, achieved degrees from The George Washington University.
Looking up on stage, members of the audience see pitchers, infielders and outfielders. But when the final out is recorded on GW's 2017 baseball season, those position players and pitchers will become something else. Some may remain ball players at the professional level. Others will become doctors, lawyers, engineers and economists. The future leaders of the world.
Following a procession into the Betts Theater, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Forrest Maltzman welcomed the graduates and their families and friends to the ceremony. He cited a classic quote by baseball legend Yogi Berra, saying "It ain't over until its over."
Maltzman explained that the quote not only applies to baseball, but to education as well. Just because today marks the end of the honorees' undergraduate career, one must never cease learning. He implored the graduates to live outside of their comfort zone and live a long life full of questioning and exploring. Much like a baseball game, education "ain't over until its over".
Head Coach Gregg Ritchie then took to the lectern and delivered an emotional address to his first-ever recruiting class. He praised each individual for taking on the challenges of being an undergraduate student-athlete head on. He preached that each person on the stage has learned more about themselves and the strength they have within during their time at GW. He said the most exciting thing is knowing that they are only starting to scratch the surface of their potential and how proud he is of each of them for growing into honest, caring and trustworthy young men who are committed to living a life of high standards.
Ritchie shared a quote that he felt had great meaning to the graduating class. "You can't hit a home run unless you step up to the plate. You can't catch a fish unless you put your line in the water. You can't reach your goals if you don't try."
Ritchie explained that the home run is not the most important part of that lesson. It is getting to the plate and getting that at-bat. Getting out to the game, showing up and taking a chance. He implored his players to not stop taking risks. He closed by advising the graduates to be prepared, to trust what they have learned and experienced, find the fire in your gut and hold onto it.
Senior closer Eddie Muhl was next up to address his classmates and the audience and explained that when this class arrived on campus in the Fall of 2013, it was the start of a new era for GW Baseball with very high expectations that had little to do with on-field performance.
Despite all of the team accomplishments and individual accolades the group has accumulated over their careers, Muhl shared he was most proud of being a force for good in the community. He said he was most grateful that his time as a student-athlete has amplified his ability to give back to those in need.
Muhl shared his bond to his brothers will last forever and that the love and support of his teammates made attending college and playing baseball nearly 3,000 miles from home easy. Like when on the mound with his defense behind him, Muhl explained that the seniors on that stage have each others backs for life and he is excited to see the impact that each of them will have on the world.
President Knapp then addressed the graduates and officially conferred their degrees, making these 14 student-athletes official graduates of The George Washington University.
The GW Baseball Class of 2017 is Joey Bartosic, John Brady, Cody Bryant, Bobby Campbell, Colin Gibbons-Fly, Eli Kashi, Ty Kobylinski, Eddie Muhl, Brandon Ritchie, Andrew Selby, Jordan Sheinkop, Zane Schreiber, Jon Steele and Shane Sweeney
GW will be in action against Saint Joseph's this weekend (Thurs.-Sat.) at Tucker Field at Barcroft Park with a chance to clinch a spot in the upcoming Atlantic 10 Championship.
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