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June 20, 2008
By Pat McDonnell
Look into his determined face, with its prominent chin, and see the new Thinking Man in college baseball. What can I do for the team?, he seems to ask, and wonders a little more.
That’s the humble work ethic of David Ciarlo, who played his senior year at second base for the Nevada Wolf Pack baseball team in 2008 and graduated last month with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
For Nevada, which finished the recently completed regular season second in the Western Athletic Conference to Fresno State, Ciarlo could do just about no wrong. To clarify — that’s do little wrong inside and outside the classroom.
ESPN The Magazine recognized Ciarlo as a third-team Academic All-American May 27. Compiling a perfect 4.0 grade-point average during the Spring 2008 semester, the Vancouver, Wash., student-athlete completed his degree requirements with a figurative home run.
Only 33 baseball players in the country are named Academic All-Americans in the University Division, a classification for the largest schools. Nevada rifle team member Andrew Hickey, a junior biology major from Sutter, Calif., received the honor in his sport in June.
This October, Ciarlo plans to take the LSATs or Law School Admission Test. He has enjoyed every aspect of his experience at the University of Nevada and is thinking about going to Boyd Law School in Las Vegas.
“Writing is my strength,” says the 22-year-old. “Legal writing would be an avenue I’d pursue.”
Talk about having a positive impact.
“After his first year, I knew he understood,” says 26th-year Nevada baseball Coach Gary Powers. “My expectations of guys get bigger and bigger. You always want them to raise their goals.”
Persistence runs in the family
Ciarlo’s drive generates, in large part, from his mother, Julie.
“My mom is the best student in our family,” he says. “She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.”
Julie Ciarlo did not graduate from her Washington state high school, but her resiliency shined as she qualified for studies at Clark College, a two-year institution in Vancouver, Wash., and then achieved a perfect grade-point average in education studies at Washington State University’s campus in the city. Now she is student teaching and pursuing a master’s degree.
“She would call me and tell me, ‘You think it’s tough going on the road and playing ball?’” Ciarlo says. “She’d say, ‘Well, I’ve got a full-time job (as part-owner of a deli in Vancouver with her husband, Tony).’
“I look at that,” he says, “and think ‘I should be able to do that.’”
A leader's presence
Road trips, though, can break many collegiate baseball teams. Powers had Ciarlo to count on to keep the younger Wolf Pack players focused as April wound into May, and as a four-games-in-three-days trip to Honolulu, Hawaii rolled into another four-in-three trip to Ruston, La.
“He always mentored the younger players,” Powers says of the .366 hitter in 2008 and WAC All-Tournament selection. “When he was a freshman, some of the older players took him under their wing. He reciprocated.”
Those greener players in the infield, like freshman Nick Leid (a .302 hitter) and sophomore Kevin Rodland (who led the team in assists at shortstop and was among the Pack’s leaders in runs scored) for example, also performed well on the field and in the classroom. Leid was a WAC All-Academic Freshman selection and Rodland was named to the conference’s All-Academic Team, which took into account the spring sports of baseball, men’s and women’s golf, softball, women’s tennis and men’s and women’s track and field.
When Ciarlo went down with a severely sprained ankle May 3 at Louisiana Tech, the continuity of the Nevada infield suffered, despite all the mentoring he had done.
The injury came toward the end of an impressive career. Ciarlo wound up playing close to 200 games for the Wolf Pack in his four seasons, and at one point, had started 88 straight games at second base.
Leaving big shoes to fill
“He’s been the best second baseman defensively that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Powers says. “He was a total contributor for us this year. It hurt us when he was out of the lineup. He was a force.”
Ciarlo’s quick hands and quick mind (he wrote a paper on discrimination against student-athletes for his prelaw adviser, 17-year Nevada criminal justice professor Robert Chaires) have not let him down. Even in his self-described toughest course, Feminist Jurisprudence, he excels.
It has a lot to do with family support, Powers says. Ciarlo also credits Chaires, an understanding professor who, nevertheless, demands persistence from his students.
“He was hard on me,” Ciarlo says, “but it worked out in the long run because you get better.
“He understands the student-athlete dilemma. He knew where I was coming from with the time constraints.”
Pat McDonnell is a writer/editor in University Communications.