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Alumnus Pitches for Washington Nationals Affiliate
Bobby Lucas earned two GW degrees before joining local Hagerstown Suns.
July 30, 2012
Bobby Lucas, B.B.A. ’10, M.A. ’12, had always wanted to play professional baseball.
After six years at GW, major elbow surgery and a lot of determination, Mr. Lucas was drafted by the Washington Nationals in June 2011.
But although Mr. Lucas was finally about to live his dream, he had another task to finish first—his graduate degree in human and organizational learning from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.
“I told the Nationals I had one more year left and wanted to finish school,” said Mr. Lucas. “I realized this degree will go a lot further than baseball, so I knew I needed to come back.”
Armed with two GW degrees, Mr. Lucas now spends his days as a relief pitcher for the Hagerstown Suns, a Class A minor league affiliate of the Washington Nationals. The Maryland-based team plays a major league schedule, traveling up and down the East Coast until the season ends in mid-September.
With more than 130 games a season, Mr. Lucas said the schedule is “exhausting,” but he is used to keeping busy. As a GW graduate student, Mr. Lucas held jobs at the Center for Student Engagement and the Department of Athletics and Recreation so he could stay in school.
“I sacrificed a lot of baseball to come back to finish my degree,” said Mr. Lucas. “But GW allowed me to work so I could afford to come back to school. They really supported me after all I gave to them [with baseball].”
Mr. Lucas’s time as a Colonial was almost by accident. While visiting college baseball teams in 2006, the Baltimore native decided on a whim to stop in Washington, D.C. with his family to check out George Washington.
“My instinct was to stay close to home, and when I got down here I felt it was the right place to be,” he said. “It was a blessing, because if I hadn’t stopped by, I would’ve missed out.”
During his senior year at GW, Mr. Lucas had surgery on a radial nerve in his elbow and missed the entire season. After extensive rehab, Mr. Lucas was able to play during his extra year of eligibility as a graduate student.
He credits the “strong support system” in the Department of Athletics and Recreation for helping him balance his athletic and academic commitments at George Washington.
“I’d like to play baseball as a career but it’s not a guarantee, so having an academic career is important,” he said.
Although he knew he may not make the major leagues, Mr. Lucas said he never gave up on his dream, even when he was injured.
“I would think about getting a job, and I didn’t feel prepared for that,” he said. “I did well in school, but did not have the network or internships that other students have since baseball is demanding. That gave me a lot of motivation to train, and my coaches and family also made sure I kept a sense of urgency when it came to preparing myself.”
Hearing his name called in the 27th round of the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft was “a shock” to Mr. Lucas, who had participated in a workout for the Nationals only a week before the draft.
“I didn’t get emotional right away; I just sat there stunned, trying to take it all in,” he said. “Then after a while I was able to feel my emotions. I had waited for a long time, and as a sixth-year senior and after everything I’d gone through, that almost made it more special.”
After he was drafted, Mr. Lucas competed for a spot on the Nationals team at their spring training in Viera, Fla., before landing a pitching position with the Hagerstown Suns. Under the current minor league system, Mr. Lucas could be called up to the Nationals at any time, or move up to the Class A Advanced, Double-A or Triple A leagues.
He’s been enjoying his time with the Suns and said the constant travel has made the team “like family,” while his own travels to Hagerstown for many of his home games.
Mr. Lucas describes his journey to the Suns as one filled with “a lot of ups and downs,” but said the right support and his own determination was what led him to the mound today.
“In college, I was nervous because I wasn’t doing as well as the competition, and there were times when I doubted whether I could do it,” he said. “Once I gained confidence and realized I was just as good as anyone else, I knew I still had the opportunity to be a professional baseball player.”