APPLETON, Wis. -- The Oxford English dictionary defines the term ‘student’ as, “a person who is studying at school or in college.” The word ‘athlete’ is defined as, “a person who is proficient in sports and other forms of physical exercise.“
Each word alone illustrates commitment, time management, effort, and discipline. Then something truly remarkable happens when we put a hyphen between the words. This hyphen connects the two strenuous endeavors, intentionally labeling ‘student’ first. Student-athlete is a term frequently uttered, but often underappreciated, and to only combine the two separate definitions would not do justice in explaining what it means to be a student-athlete.
Baldwin Wallace assistant coach, Brendan Toughey epitomizes the term student-athlete, just one year removed from being named the 2013 Capital One All American of the Year for Division III baseball. Now coaching at his alma mater, Toughey was in Appleton as the Yellow Jackets made their first trip to the national finals.
“It was unbelievable to get that award and be honored,” said Toughey. “I give credit to my school, and coaching staff and teammates. Basically they named me the best academic player in Division III baseball. It’s just a great honor to be a part of a tradition of BW Baseball, an Academic All-American, just very humbling and a testament to all the people that helped me along the way.”
Each sport at every level awards one player Academic All-American of the Year, while compiling Academic All-American teams for each sport. In order to be nominated for the prestigious award, one must have a minimum 3.0 grade point average, be a starter or important reserve for their sport, compete in 50 percent of contests at their position listed, and complete one full year at their institution.
“The balance is very tough. You got to learn time management very quickly,” continued Toughey. “I think I did a good job and made sure academics are coming first. You can’t worry about getting it done on the field until you can get it done in the classroom. It’s really important to me, and coach talks about academics all the time, making sure you’re getting it done in the classroom. I think that’s part of our team. We have a smart team, they know baseball, they know how to play the game and that’s part of it.”
Toughey was enrolled in the Baldwin Wallace 3/2 MBA accounting program which allows students to complete their MBA and undergraduate degree in five years. Along with long hours studying and interning, Toughey held a .356 batting average and set the school record of 153 runs scored. As his eligibility expired, he joined the coaching staff and worked with the hitters and outfielders this spring.
Graduating a couple weeks ago, Toughey received his MBA in accounting, while aiding the Yellow Jackets to their most successful season in school history. This summer he plans to prepare for his CPA exam and has accepted an offer with Ernest & Young, a public accounting firm in Cleveland, starting in August.
Practice, work outs, meetings, games, traveling, and conditioning -- plus needing the talent to do so -- is the athlete part of the equation. But that only comes after hitting the books, studying, attending class, exams, and presentations are complete. And to do both, at such an extremely high level, takes a special student, a special athlete, and a special person.
Aside from leading the Yellow Jackets in average (.410), runs (66), hits (66), doubles (13), home runs (4), slugging (.490), total bases (99), and stolen bases (20) during his senior year, his most significant statistic came from the classroom.
Maintaining a 3.92 student in a tough graduate program, Toughey managed to find time to intern at Ernest & Young during the summer of his junior year while serving as the Head of Publicity for the B-W Accounting Association.
“It’s an unbelievable program. It’s a five year program, which really helped because the fifth year they give you the undergrad rate, so that really helps,” said Toughey. “And they do a great job with networking opportunities, helping you build a resume, and getting four years of good school. So they really helped me out with my internship, which turned into a job.”
Another Yellow Jackets senior was named to the Academic All-District team in 2014 and Toughey is hoping his lead-off hitter can receive a similar honor of landing on the Academic All-American team.
“We’re hoping our lead-off hitter, Brad Gugliotta, has a really high academic standing as a senior and played great this year,” continued Toughey, endorsing his second baseman, “I think he hit .380 for us so we’re hoping he can be Academic All-American. He’s a great player, great person, and great student-athlete.”
A great student-athlete is an incredible compliment in itself, depicting the work ethic and character of all those who are in Appleton this week. After a highly successful stint in his first year of coaching, Toughey is not certain when he will return to the dugout.
“I might, maybe when I’m older,” said Toughey, “I’m going on to Ernest & Young, a public accounting firm and hopefully later find some time to do that.”
It seems he always had a knack to “find some time” to be successful in baseball as a player and coach. And once the taste of coaching is in your blood, it’s there for life.
“Yeah it is, it really is.” laughed Toughey, acknowledging his passion for the game is eternal.
The 2014 Capital One All-American team for Division III Baseball will be announced on Wednesday May 27th. This week in Appleton, six Academic All-District players were in town competing, including:
Southern Maine’s Chris Bernard (3.32 grade point average in communication); Salisbury’s Dan Fein (4.0 GPA in math education); Emory’s Brandon Hannon (3.46 GPA in math and economics); Linfield’s Eric Lawson (3.90 GPA in marketing) and Nick Fisher (3.86 GPA in mathematics); and Baldwin Wallace’s Tom Gugliotta (3.69 GPA in Masters of accounting).