It’s been worth the long drives. It’s been worth the insults.
On Saturday, Georgia Tech assistant baseball coach Matt White will graduate from Georgia.
You read that right.
He will receive a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife, 14 years after he graduated from high school in Waynesboro, Pa.
And yes, he’s gotten plenty of gruff. Mostly from the players he supervises.
“Baseball players have a knack for harassing each other,” he said. “When we get close to playing Georgia, they ask me who am I going to root for. There’s constant harassment.”
It’s been a long journey to get that diploma.
He signed with the San Francisco Giants in 1996 and spent 10 years with the Tampa Bay franchise.
When he left professional baseball in 2006 he said he needed to come up with a plan.
An avid hunter and outdoorsman, he found out Georgia had one of the top-five programs for Wildlife.
He applied and got into school and got into the program. Around the same time the opportunity to coach at Tech became available.
It’s made for some long days.
He, his wife and their two daughters live in Milton.
He said he gets up, drives to Athens three days a week for classes in the mornings and early afternoons, and then turns around and drives to Tech for practice before heading back home.
He will miss Saturday’s game against Illinois-Chicago to walk with his classmates. Then he’ll be back to work at Tech next week.
He plans on using his education to improve some property he bought near Hutchinson, Kan. with his baseball money.
Some of his former teammates have asked him to work on their properties, as well.
So what does a Wildlife major do?
Work with land, mostly. But it depends on what the land owner wants. Some want to make it better for deer hunting, others for bird watching.
White said he starts by analyzing an aerial photo of the property to figure out what is already growing. From there, he will walk the property and begin to visualize what needs to be done. Depending upon the season and what the owner wants, the process typically takes three to four months. White can do tracts of land as large a few thousand acres.
“Quite a time commitment and tough to handle but definitely worth it,” he said.