CINCINNATI -- Over his eight-year Major League career, former reliever Todd Coffey was known for busting out of the bullpen in a dead sprint until he reached the mound and got the ball.This fall, Coffey is running full speed into the next phase of his life: college student. The Baseball
CINCINNATI -- Over his eight-year Major League career, former reliever Todd Coffey was known for busting out of the bullpen in a dead sprint until he reached the mound and got the ball.
This fall, Coffey is running full speed into the next phase of his life: college student. The Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) has launched a new scholarship program that aids former Major League and Minor League players in financial need to pursue collegiate or advanced degrees after retirement. Coffey is the first recipient of B.A.T. scholarship money, and he's taking online courses with Boston's Northeastern University, which was recently named MLB's preferred education provider.
"B.A.T.'s scholarship program has been great about getting players into school," Coffey said. "In this day and age, the emphasis on education is super important -- even in the baseball world. We've seen front offices wanting people with degrees, especially data-analysis degrees."
Coffey was 25-18 with a 4.10 ERA in 461 career games with the Reds, Brewers, Nationals and Dodgers from 2005-12. A right elbow injury, which required his second Tommy John surgery, ultimately ended his big league career during a game for the Dodgers vs. the Reds. But it took five years of rehab and foiled comeback bids before Coffey formally retired from baseball in 2017.
The father of four kids -- ranging from kindergarten age to 17 years old -- Coffey is seeking to further himself in his post-playing life.
"I'm 38 years old. I still have quite a little bit to live," Coffey said. "There are also players out there who are done at 22 or 23. I'm thankful that B.A.T. can help me with this. I'm the first person to take this. I have a responsibility to them and Northeastern to do great with this."
Coffey has taken on a full-time workload of courses -- 16 credit hours -- for the fall. He hasn't selected a major yet, and he's working on getting his required classes completed. He can do his work online from his home in North Carolina.
"Each week, I have my assignments due. It does give you some flexibility, especially with me having four kids," Coffey said. "I know the assignments are due on these dates, know what they are. I then go out and do the work. You listen to lectures online on your own time. It allows players, especially those with families and other things in their lives, to take college classes without going to the campus and sitting there the whole day."
During the 2018-19 academic calendar, $500,000 is being allocated for B.A.T. scholarships, which can be awarded to those in need who plan to pursue their education. The scholarship covers a period of no longer than one academic or program year. Eligible applicants include players who have at least one day of Major League service or at least two full seasons of service as a player with a Minor League club that is, or was, a member of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues.
Northeastern's online education program offers bachelor's degree programs in areas like finance, health sciences, information technology, human services, communications and psychology. There are also master's degree and advanced certification programs.
"It allows players to go without incurring the huge financial cost," Coffey said. "Education costs have gone way up because its value has increased. It allows players to come on without taking on debt where sometimes they can't keep their heads above water. They want to get the education but couldn't do it because of the financials."
As he works toward his next career, Coffey sees endless possibilities. However, he wouldn't mind using his education to get back into a field he knows quite well -- professional baseball.
"I would love to get back into baseball and a front office," Coffey said. "I have spoken with some front offices, put my toe in there to see what they do. I believe a degree is what the world demands now. Baseball is no different than any large corporation."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.