Avila University
AU Spotlight
Submitted December 6, 2010
Student-athletes mix interests in writing senior seminars

Matt Newby and Cory Stuefer,
English Majors

When it came to picking a topic for their senior seminar papers, English majors Matt Newby and Cory Stuefer were encouraged to tackle a subject that interested them.

It didn’t take them long to decide.

Newby and Stuefer also happen to both be baseball players and are expected to be key assets for coach Ryan Howard when Avila tries for a second straight trip to the NAIA national tournament this spring. It only seemed natural for them to combine their love of America’s national pastime with their senior theses work.

Both seniors chose similar areas for their study, but took very different approaches. Newby wrote his paper and corresponding power-point presentation on the Negro Baseball Leagues and approached the topic from the standpoint that there were players in those leagues who actually were better baseball players than Jackie Robinson, who received credit for breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier. Stuefer focused his project on Jackie Robinson, only didn’t focus so much on his baseball talent but on his social activism.

“A lot of people know about Jackie Robinson, but didn’t know a lot of guys and what talent they had, and what they had to go through just to play baseball,” said Newby, who gleaned much of his information from two books – a fictional work entitled “The Diary of Biddy Owens,” and a non-fiction book on the old barnstorming games between Negro Leagues players and those in the major leagues.

"What impresses me about both of these students is their love and extensive knowledge of baseball and the way they have combined English and sports to create such commendable and interesting senior seminar projects," Cervetti said.

“A lot of people don’t know that those guys, guys like Josh Gibson, Buck O’Neill, had better stats than Jackie Robinson,” Newby said. “They just didn’t get the attention Jackie Robinson got.

“I wanted to show how Major League Baseball chose Jackie Robinson, but others were considered superior athletes. It’s been projected Josh Gibson would’ve hit 800 home runs – more than today’s record – if he’d had the chance to play. Satchel Paige was projected to have more (pitching) wins than anyone.”

Stuefer said he’ll spend less than one minute during his power-point presentation (both students will present back-to-back Dec. 10) talking about Robinson’s baseball career.

“He’s THE guy in baseball; his number is retired around the league,” he said. “But he was also heavily involved in the NAACP. He was working a job five minutes away from Pearl Harbor and was playing semi-pro football in Hawaii, and boarded a ship for the mainland the day before the Japanese struck. He had big problems with Malcolm X. He campaigned for (Richard) Nixon and (Nelson) Rockefeller.

“He sort of felt like baseball was a poor way to make a buck.”

Stuefer said it was interesting how he and Newby started with similar topics, but ended up with such diverse end products.

“Matt’s turned out being about why Jackie Robinson wasn’t the best, and mine is about why he’s so recognized,” Stuefer said.

Nancy Cervetti, an English professor in Avila’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and the supervisor on the seminars, raved about the job the two ballplayers did on their projects. Stuefer’s and Newby’s passions for baseball were evident in their work, Cervetti said.

“What impresses me about both of these students is their love and extensive knowledge of baseball and the way they have combined English and sports to create such commendable and interesting senior seminar projects,” Cervetti said.

Newby and Stuefer both said they received a lot of support in their projects from both Avila staff and fellow students.

“(Cervetti) has gone above and beyond,” Newby said. “I couldn’t be happier with what she’s done to contribute to my project.”

Stuefer added, “I’ve loved all of my teachers; all have been very helpful. I love the small classes and getting to know and make relationships with all my classmates and faculty.”

Once they make their presentations Dec. 10, Newby and Stuefer will set their sights on the upcoming baseball season and, for Newby anyway, graduating in May (Stuefer will walk in May, but still needs a couple credit hours). Newby, a pitcher, still is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, while Stuefer, a first baseman, also is looking forward to his final season of college baseball.

“I may not love baseball the most of anybody,” Newby said. “But nobody loves it more than I do. I love everything about it.”AU