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Pinder balances Arizona Fall League and schoolwork

Oakland's No. 7 prospect is working toward finishing his communications degree from Virginia Tech

MESA, Ariz. -- After a long day of workouts and an Arizona Fall League game, most prospects look for a way to relax and unwind.

Chad Pinder, however, hits the books.

Pinder, the No. 7 prospect in the Oakland Athletics' organization, is fully devoted to developing as a baseball player during the day, but at night he takes on the role of a student finishing a communications degree from Virginia Tech.

"It's tough because obviously you're here and you want to focus so much on baseball, but obviously getting my degree is something that I've always wanted to do," Pinder said. "There's been some nights where I'm staying up late doing work. I'm just balancing it all, trying not to exhaust myself too much."

The A's selected Pinder with the 71st overall pick of the 2013 Draft, and the middle infielder left school early to pursue his dream.

However, the idea of graduating never left Pinder's mind, and earning a degree is something important to both him and his family.

"Me and his mother are definitely real proud of him," Chris Pinder, Chad's father, said. "I told him, 'Baseball won't always be around, but I can guarantee you will need a job at some point. It's a great accomplishment, as well, to finish what you start. If you can play in the big leagues a while it'll be great, but eventually you're going to want to work.'"

Pinder could have delayed the process a bit and waited until the winter session to take classes, but he felt he was up for the challenge and opted to do both simultaneously.

"My parents told me to do what I want, take as much as I can handle," Pinder said. "They understand me going to the Fall League was a big deal and they wanted me to focus on that, but I felt like I could handle both and balance both, so I decided to take the classes."

But it's not without challenges.

"It's not so much hard as it is annoying," Pinder said. "It's a little tedious. You're doing stuff when you wake up in the morning. When you'd rather sleep in, you've got to wake up a little bit earlier to get the homework done. Then after the game, if you have an assignment, you sacrifice a lot of sleep for it."

If he is suffering from a bit of sleep deprivation, it's not showing on the field. Pinder has expertly navigated his way through the semester and the first half of the AFL.

After hitting .317 with 15 homers and 86 RBIs in 117 games for Double-A Midland this year, Pinder picked up right where he left off.

In eight Arizona Fall League contests, Pinder is hitting .314 with four home runs.

Pinder's ability to handle both a professional career and a full semester's worth of classes is impressive, but his father is hardly surprised.

"I just know him and he's one of those kids that can take it," Chris Pinder said. "He's very balanced and doesn't overload himself either way."

The key to balancing everything is focusing on the task at hand, not letting school affect baseball or vice versa.

When he's at the ballpark, it's time for baseball. When he's home, it's time to study.

"I go to the library probably once a week," Pinder said. "I'll do a handful of stuff at home. Two or three days a week I'll dedicate to homework or whatever I have to do with assignments."

It certainly hasn't been easy, but Pinder's efforts have been paying off.

If all goes well, 2016 could be the year Pinder both makes his Major League debut and receives his diploma.

William Boor is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.
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