Baseball and Education: Rays Dream

March 15, 2012

“No dreamer is ever too small. No dream is ever too big”
-Unknown Author

It was good to be back at the Rays’ facility where I had thrown batting practice at last year’s Spring Training. What a day that was! Having Johnny Damon introduce himself to me; Talking with Manny Ramirez at the water cooler; And having Don Zimmer turn into an old grandfather as he gushed over his granddaughter’s recent softball achievements. The chance for me to come back and share what I was now doing with Sport in Society was very cool for me.

This time around, there were no press cameras covering my every pitch. Nor was Joe Maddon there, who had previously cracked my daughter up, trying to bribe her into becoming a Rays’ fan with endless gifts of Rays’ merchandise. In fact, without any hoopla at all, as representatives of Northeastern University, we slipped through the door of the Ray’s minor league clubhouse and prepared to present.

Julio, a Latin American infielder, met us in the presentation room. He was happy to hear that Northeastern has many international online students, and that he could work on his degree from either his home country or the U.S. I found Julio’s smile and excitement to be contagious and unforgettable. Turns out, he still needs his high school diploma. But undeterred, Julio is now making arrangements to get his GED so he can than pursue his college goal.

Maybe by going to the Rays’ camp we helped inspire Julio to get his GED. Or maybe he would have done it anyway. Either way, Julio inspired me. He inspired me to keep pushing through and to keep sharing the gift of education.

At its root, my baseball journey has always been about helping people. I believe with all my heart that baseball can be used to help make the world better. For me, it has never been about meeting superstars, being in the news, or for a collection of free gear. For me, it has always been about the Julio’s of the world – The players who love the game – Who fight as underdogs – And always dream big.

-To read more about Justine’s journey through spring training, visit