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Phoenix Forward magazine

Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt scores big in 2013

Photo courtesy of the Arizona Diamondbacks

It was quite a year for Arizona Diamondbacks First Baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

In only his second full season in the big leagues, his hitting and fielding statistics earned him nearly every award possible in 2013, including a trip to the All-Star game and a second-place finish among sportswriters’ votes for the National League’s most valuable player.

“Goldy,” as he’s known around the nation’s ballparks, also completed another noteworthy feat last year: He earned his bachelor's in management degree from University of Phoenix. He graduated with a 3.90 GPA while completing almost all of his courses during each of the past two regular Major League Baseball seasons.

“I’m living the dream,” Goldschmidt says with a chuckle.

That’s about as much hyperbole as you’ll ever hear from him. Goldschmidt, in spite of becoming a full-blown sports superstar at 26, is surprisingly humble.   

“Just like tons of kids, I grew up loving baseball,” he says. But unlike many of his sandlot teammates in suburban Houston, he liked math, too. He could easily calculate just how slim the odds were that any little boy could grow up to make a career out of a love for the game.

“The smart choice was always to concentrate on my education,” he says, pointing out that among all of the baseball players around the world, only 750 compete in the majors each season.

So despite being scouted in high school, he went on to play ball and study finance at Texas State University in 2006. A college standout in school and on the field, he twice was named the Southland Conference scholar-athlete of the year, helping tilt the odds even more heavily in favor of a baseball career.

In 2009, as his junior year ended, the Diamondbacks drafted him.

“It was an opportunity of a lifetime,” he says. “I was on track to graduate the following year. But in baseball, you just never know what to expect. So when an opportunity like that opens up, you just have to take it.”

The smart choice was always to concentrate on my education.

A rookie sensation that first summer in the pros, he earned the title of D-backs Minor League Player of the Year in 2010 and 2011. The big leagues called him up before the 2011 season ended.

He says his baseball contract came with a scholarship to any school of his choice to complete his degree. So he explored his options. “I quickly realized University of Phoenix was the way to go,” he recalls. “When I learned I could take all of my courses online, one at a time, it really made sense for my schedule.”

It also made sense to him that he concentrate on class during each of the past two 162-game seasons, rather than wait for the down time of fall and winter.

During the season, he says, there’s a rhythm to each day that made it easy to plan for studying, writing papers and communicating with online classmates. Hotels and airplanes offered fewer distractions, he points out, than off-season fundraising and appearance commitments.

Besides, he didn’t find playing ball while going to school half as difficult as what many of his classmates faced, he says.

“I was in class with a lot of military students,” he explains. “I got to interact with our country’s real heroes, and that was a very humbling experience. They have such dangerous jobs — and so much more responsibility. To have to put that aside for schoolwork each day was inspiring. I felt like I had no excuse when it came to deadlines.”

Extra-inning games could certainly make it challenging for submitting assignments on time, he notes. But he remained undeterred.

“I’d be on the plane, in my hotel room, even in the clubhouse, reading, writing, working on a team assignment or posting comments online to my classmates,” he says. “Whatever it took to get my work done, I did it. I was focused on finishing my degree.”

Now that his college studies are behind him, Goldschmidt says he wants to make sure he keeps all doors open when it comes to his future. To stay current, he reads the financial and business pages, he says, and often talks to former players to see what they’re doing outside of baseball — and what opportunities might fit his skill set.

But that’s a long way off, he says, adding, “I always try to live in the moment.”

As the 2014 season gets underway, Goldschmidt’s moment in baseball is now — and for the foreseeable future. In addition to his accomplishments in 2013, he signed a five-year contract extension that starts this year, with an option that could keep him with the Diamondbacks through 2019.

If some baseball fans haven’t heard of him yet, Goldy is on his way to becoming a household name.

University of Phoenix, in partnership with the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation, offers three full-tuition scholarships to eligible students seeking an undergraduate or master’s degree. Visit the Teaming Up for Education Scholarship page for more information.

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