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D-backs graduate 6 from Dominican academy

D-backs

BOCA CHICA, Dominican Republic -- Joshua Javier, a young pitching prospect for the D-backs, went 7-2 with a 1.44 ERA this season in the Dominican Summer League and has dreams of reaching the Major Leagues one day, but the tall, bespectacled right-hander isn't banking on it. He has a backup plan to be a cardiovascular surgeon, and on Saturday morning, he took the next big step toward achieving that goal as he crossed the stage at the club's academy and received his high school diploma.

"It's been an emotional experience playing baseball and being able to graduate today," said Javier, one of the co-valedictorians of this year's graduating class. "We are achieving one of the dreams we've had since childhood. We know that not all of us are going to reach the Major Leagues, but we have the chance to get our education thanks to the D-backs."

BOCA CHICA, Dominican Republic -- Joshua Javier, a young pitching prospect for the D-backs, went 7-2 with a 1.44 ERA this season in the Dominican Summer League and has dreams of reaching the Major Leagues one day, but the tall, bespectacled right-hander isn't banking on it. He has a backup plan to be a cardiovascular surgeon, and on Saturday morning, he took the next big step toward achieving that goal as he crossed the stage at the club's academy and received his high school diploma.

"It's been an emotional experience playing baseball and being able to graduate today," said Javier, one of the co-valedictorians of this year's graduating class. "We are achieving one of the dreams we've had since childhood. We know that not all of us are going to reach the Major Leagues, but we have the chance to get our education thanks to the D-backs."

The raucous reception given to Javier by his fellow prospects demonstrated the respect they have for him as he joined fellow prospects Eudy Ramos, Yeison Santana, Diony Rodriguez, Sandy Martinez and co-valedictorian Osvaldo Santilien in finishing high school through the team's unique program. In four years, the first-of-its-kind program has graduated 26 players while countless others have advanced several grades in moving closer to realizing that same goal.

Saturday's ceremony was attended by D-backs prospects and their families, coaches, administrators and numerous top club executives including assistant general manager Amiel Sawdaye, vice president of Latin operations Junior Noboa and senior advisor to the president & CEO Luis Gonzalez.

"I know it's not easy to spend a long day on the field and then have to come inside and focus on your schoolwork," Sawdaye told the assembled crowd. "While the energy you display on the field is exhausting, that same demanding effort should be present in the classroom."

Gonzalez recalled his days at the University of South Alabama and the importance his education played in teaching him respect, discipline and how to become a good teammate. Gonzalez told the young players that he now feels at ease in the boardroom and the clubhouse, finding ways to contribute to the community at home and abroad.

Dominican Republic minister of education Andres Navarro also attended the ceremony, noting the challenges his country faces when so many young men quit their studies to chase their dreams of playing baseball. He has worked closely with the country's president, Danilo Medina, and Major League Baseball, on a strategy to combat the issue, which will be formally announced late in February.

"I encourage you to prepare two cards -- a baseball card and a card for the game of life," Navarro said, "If you can triumph in baseball, when you turn 40 and you're done playing, you'll have a lot of life ahead. You may have a lot of money, but to know how to use it, it's fundamental that you have a good education."

The team's program stemmed from a promise made by D-backs president & CEO Derrick Hall to Medina in 2013 that the club would provide the youth of his country with the best education among all 30 franchises. The unique part of the D-backs' program is that prospects continue to have their education funded by the team even if they are no longer playing in the organization.

"This is a generous commitment from the top and we thank [D-backs managing general partner] Ken Kendrick for caring so much about the future of these young men," said Hall. "This program is close to our hearts and a very important part of our operations in the Dominican Republic. Watching these young men in their caps and gowns, earn their high school education, is incredibly rewarding because we know how much it means to them. We hope that they all find success both on and off the field."

Josh Rawitch is a the senior vice president of content and communication for the D-backs.

Arizona Diamondbacks