COURTESY GEORGETOWN SPORTS INFORMATION Senior Erick Fernandez chose not to sign with the Washington Nationals this summer.
COURTESY GEORGETOWN SPORTS INFORMATION
Senior Erick Fernandez chose not to sign with the Washington Nationals this summer.

In a modern college sports world polluted by allegations of improper benefits and violations of recruiting rules, Georgetown senior catcher Erick Fernandez is a breath of fresh air.

Earlier this month, Fernandez was one of two catchers named to the preseason all-Big East team. Last season he batted .317, cranking out five home-runs and 29 runs batted in while starting all but two of the Hoyas’ 51 games. He was also a force to be reckoned with from behind the plate, ranking second among Big East catchers in throwing base runners out.

With those stats, it is no surprise that the draft-eligible backstop received some attention from Major League Baseball. The Washington Nationals selected Fernandez in the 46th round of the 2010 draft, a dream come true for every baseball player.

Despite the recognition, Fernandez admits he was disappointed he did not go higher. He turned down signing with the Nats and returned to the Hilltop this fall with plenty of goals for the upcoming year β€” both on the diamond and in the classroom.

As he nears the conclusion of his collegiate career, it is clear that Fernandez is an exceptionally gifted player. What many don’t know is that throughout his playing career, his opportunity to play baseball has hinged on his academic success.

The Miami, Fla. native started playing baseball when he was 8 years old. Despite his parents’ immense support, there was a catch β€” no pun intended. In order for him to play, he had to do well in school. If he earned a grade below a B, there would be no baseball.

Although their demands were stiff, Fernandez says that he is now grateful for his parents’ stringent academic standards.

Fernandez played shortstop for three years at Miami Springs High School and in his senior season at Hialeah High School (the alma mater of former Yankee great and Red Sox enemy-of-the-state Bucky Dent). High academic standards not only impacted Fernandez’s eligibility to play baseball but also played a crucial role in his college decision.

North Carolina State, Florida International and perennial baseball powerhouse Miami (Fla.) competed with Georgetown for the star shortstop’s commitment. Not only was he ranked the 185th-best high school player in the country by Baseball America, but he also boasted a 4.4 GPA.

The choice to become a Hoya was an easy one for Fernandez. The adjustment to a new city and a new part of the country, however, did not come as easily. Fernandez, though, was excited to experience all the opportunities the District held that Miami lacked.

This open-minded ideology was another very important lesson he learned from his parents. Fernandez’s father came to America from Cuba at age 23, bringing with him Fernandez’s brother, who was 10 months old at the time. In search of greater opportunities and a better life for his family, Mr. Fernandez passed down his sense of selflessness to his sons.

Because of his family’s history, Fernandez said he has a new perspective on life when presented with adversity while catching or in the classroom. Fully aware of the sacrifices made to get him where he is today, Fernandez doesn’t shy away from challenges; instead, he perseveres in a way that benefits him and more importantly the people around him.

This philosophy came in handy for Fernandez during his sophomore baseball season at Georgetown. With senior starter Greg Pustizzi graduating, the team lacked depth at catcher, and a clear-cut replacement could not be found. Fernandez, still a shortstop at the time, saw an opportunity to both help his team and see the field, and decided to try his hand at calling pitches.

It’s fair to say the choice was a good one. He has grown into one of the premier college catchers in the country and has had no problem taking over all the leadership responsibilities of the position. He knows his teammates look to him, especially in grim times, so he must always remain steadfast and composed. Despite whatever emotions he may be feeling at the time, his number one priority is to stay focused and do his job.

Fernandez does not know what the next part of his life holds but remains both excited and open-minded. The catcher, who majors in political economy and minors in sociology, would love more than anything to take his baseball career to the next level. If that doesn’t work out, he would still be thrilled to fall back on his Georgetown degree and take his non-baseball talents to Wall Street. For Fernandez and his parents, who both have embraced the importance of academic excellence, it is a win-win situation.

Fernandez, however, would rather not talk about the future. His senior season is upon him. His number one priority is neither getting drafted nor finishing the season all-Big East, but instead erasing the “last place” moniker given to Georgetown in Big East preseason polls.

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