The students' perspective on Villanova Sports.

Humble Beginnings

-Villanova Athletics

I’d like to take a second to apologize for my absence. It’s been an exciting busy past few weeks. Between training and the beginning of my job with the Philadelphia Eagles, I haven’t been able to do much with the Bench Mob. However, now that things are all finally squared away and settled, we’re back in action. This piece is a profile on Derrick May that I had recently written for my Sports Writing class. There will be a preview of Nova Football tomorrow:

Imagine ruling the high school kingdom as the star of the varsity baseball team and being selected by the defending World Series champions. It serves as the ideal situation for a wide-eyed teenage baseball player looking to move from the high school throne to the best team in the major leagues. For Derrick May Jr., it was almost too surreal. Fresh off of a championship run, the St. Louis Cardinals called Derrick in order to share the news that he had just been drafted. However, he turned them down, at least for now. May opted to go to college instead of the Cardinals’ organization, choosing academics over athletics. Little known is the fact that Derrick May turned down a shot at the major leagues, due to his humble disposition. Beneath the silence lies the tale of a student-athlete whose passion for baseball pumps through his veins as strongly as it did through those of his forefathers.

Hailing from Newark, Delaware, Derrick May emerges from an athletic family. His father, Derrick May Sr., enjoyed a ten-year career in the major leagues. His late grandfather, Dave May, was also blessed with a lengthy career in the majors and actually was one of the pieces of the trade that sent Hank Aaron to Milwaukee. With such a strong baseball tradition, it was natural that Derrick and his two younger brothers also gravitated to the sport. Much like his father and grandfather, he is also an outfielder.

May did not have the conventional childhood experience that most kids had. With his father in the pros, his family moved around a lot. He also spent time in the clubhouse and around a number of high-caliber players such as Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, and Cal Ripken Jr. “I took it for granted when I was younger,” May says. “Now that I think about it, it was very humbling.” As a 12-year old watching his father retire from the majors, it inspired a desire to chase after the dream of playing in the pros. Growing up, May flourished at every level in the game and did so with humility, just as his forefathers had done before him. He watched his father and grandfather carry a somber demeanor whenever they played, and he has adapted that same approach for whenever he steps onto the diamond.

May had been eyeing the University of Maryland for quite some time but after the departure of head coach Erik Bakich, he began to take another look at Villanova. The recruiting process went over smoothly; he liked the coaches and was enamored by what Villanova had to offer. He cited the strong family atmosphere, the school’s academic reputation, and the small size of the school as factors that enticed him to sign with the Wildcats. When the MLB First-Year Player Draft came around a few months after, May watched himself frustratingly fall through the ranks. Scouts had told him that he could easily be an early-round selection, however the first two days of the draft had ended without his name being called. Finally, in the 37th round, May was drafted by the Cardinals and faced with conflict. He had heard stories from his father and grandfather who witnessed many players struggling to get out of the minor leagues. More often than not, minor league players did not fulfill their dreams of making it to the majors. With the harsh realities placed before him, he had to put his dream on hold and come to Villanova for a degree.

Now at Villanova, Derrick May Jr. has had the last two years to reflect. As a freshman, he did not see much playing time. Last season he was hindered by a nagging hand injury that occurred in practice over the previous summer. It took eight months to rehab. He sat idly by, frustrated in a reduced role as he watched his teammates fight through a turbulent season. The Wildcats hung on for a 16-34 record, while May physically could not even finish the season. During that time, he has been given a chance to slow down life from the rigorous demands of being a student-athlete and reflect upon himself. He acknowledges his evolution from the stubborn freshman he once was, focused solely on improving his draft stock and using college as a temporary stepping stone. While making it to the big leagues is still one of his primary goals, he came to the realization that there is more to life than just baseball. “For eight months, I couldn’t do anything, that made me realize that I’m more than just a baseball player. I’m a student, a man, just trying to succeed,” said May, as he looked away with a gaze locked into the distance toward new horizons.

While he remains the same quiet, soft-spoken person, his mind is constantly thinking of what he needs to do in order to achieve his goals. He has taken strides during the offseason to better himself as a student-athlete. “I’ve passed by the Pavilion around ten at night and seen him hitting, putting in extra work,” says Kevin Jewett, a teammate of May’s. He works out often, engages in fall ball, and fulfills his duties in the classroom. His new outlook on life and the adversities he has overcome has given him more confidence in himself to achieve. He has greater optimism for the future as he waits in excitement for a chance to prove himself in the upcoming season. His excitement is shared with other teammates. Villanova first baseman Max Beermann shared his praises for May. “He rehabbed hard and came back the best I’ve seen him play in three years,” said Beermann. “His progression really came around.”

Despite the stereotypes that are said about athletes who usually walk into class lazily in sneakers and baggy clothes, May silently defies those generalizations. He currently studies criminology with a minor in sociology, and hopes to one day go into business or join a government law enforcement agency like the FBI.

As for baseball?

“Baseball, it’s great, but the main thing I want to do as a junior is to graduate on time and if baseball comes, it comes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. That’s my mentality nowadays. Whatever happens, I’m going to be happy.”

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About The Author

Eugene Rapay '16 created "The Bench Mob" in November 2013. He joined the Villanova Times in 2012 as a writer. A Westchester, NY native, who will bring top quality coverage of all things Villanova sports.

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