For spring 2018 NC State graduate Joey Devine, earning his degree nearly 13 years after being called up to the big leagues was like rounding third and sliding into home.
Devine was a member of the NC State men’s baseball team from 2003 to 2005 before leaving college early to pursue his professional baseball career.
“I was selected by the Atlanta Braves after my junior year,” Devine said. During his professional career, Devine played for both the Braves and the Oakland Athletics. Devine was considered a two-way player: both a pitcher and a third baseman. He spent much of his time on the mound as a late-innings closer.
Before being called up, Devine had been working toward his bachelor’s degree in parks, recreation, tourism and sport management from the College of Natural Resources. His dedication and hard work on the field gave him an opportunity that many college-level baseball players only dream of — going pro. But even though he was in the pros, something was missing.
“Even when I was still playing, I always felt as though I left that door wide open and I needed to come back at some point and finish my degree,” Devine said.
In 2012, Devine’s professional baseball career ended due to injuries, but his love of the game continued to grow. He started to pursue a career in sports agency and marketing.
“I did that for a couple of years and then ultimately, I realized that my passion is college baseball,” Devine said. If he was going to stay in baseball, Devine wanted to go back to where it all started — NC State. So he reached out to Coach Elliott Avent.
“I knew there was a position called an undergraduate assistant coach. They basically scholarship your remaining education, and in return, you serve as a full-time assistant coach,” Devine explained. So he became a full-time student once again, this time through NC State Online and Distance Education.
Devine completed his degree through NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ online Leadership in the Public Sector (LPS) degree-completion program.
“I don’t think I would have been able to finish my degree if it wasn’t for distance education and for the online program that NC State has in place,” Devine said. “To be removed from school for almost 12 years and to be able to come back and feel like I didn’t miss a beat speaks volumes of the technology NC State uses.”
Devine said he had to establish a routine to help balance his busy schedule. Not only was he a full-time student taking at least 12 credit hours each semester, he was coaching full time, too. In addition to that, he’s a full-time husband and father to three young children.
“I would wake up early and go through everything and get lectures in,” Devine said. “That way I could go about my day to move forward with baseball and house duties. That’s how I managed my academics online for the last two years.”
Devine credits the online LPS program with helping him to identify his leadership skills and style, as well as what it takes to be a quality leader both on and off the diamond.
“Even at home, I want to be a leader in my family and teach my kids how to be good leaders,” Devine said. “This degree has been exceptional when it comes to identifying those strengths, and that’s one thing I’ll absolutely take with me. I feel like I’ve learned so much more about myself personally when it comes to those leadership qualities, and I feel like I’ve been able to make some pretty good strides in some areas I was weaker in.”
Devine has already been using these lessons as he works with the NC State baseball team, which is headed into the postseason. “I think the biggest thing is when I talk to these guys I tell them to set goals and go after them and don’t let anything get in your way,” Devine said. “Do it with focus and determination and do it the right way and be a great guy on and off the field, and eventually you will become a great leader and people will want to follow you.”
Devine will take these skills with him in whatever opportunity he pursues next. He plans to see what type of coaching positions open up this summer, but he’ll also continue teaching private lessons and is entertaining the idea of opening his own facility in the Raleigh area that focuses on teaching and training youth players.
He’s thankful for the opportunity to round the metaphorical bases and finish what he started at NC State. “NC State’s meant a lot to me, and to be able to know that I was able to finish it as an ‘old man’, it’s definitely rewarding.”
This post was originally published in Online and Distance Education News.