Guardians celebrate org's newest high school grads
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Guardians held their high school graduation Friday morning at their Spring Training facility. It was the first ceremony since the COVID-19 pandemic, honoring players that earned their high school diplomas in 2020, ‘21 and ‘22. Thirty-two players, including Oscar Gonzalez, Jose Tena and Jhonkensy Noel, were celebrated.
Guardians owner Paul Dolan spoke at the ceremony, while players Angel Genao and Junior Sanquintin gave the graduation speeches with their caps and gowns on.
“It was emotional,” Gonzalez told MLB.com in Spanish. “It’s something that every one of our parents and we are grateful for. Cleveland allowed me to continue my studies and thanks to God, I was able to complete it.”
Coaches and teammates were present to cheer on their peers for accomplishing their educational goals while still being able to compete at the highest level of baseball.
“It's a big deal,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “And it should be and I think we treated it appropriately.”
The program started in 2018, with Anna Bolton, assistant director of player development, education, leading the way. Many international prospects sign at 16, at which point baseball becomes their life and the window to finish their education fades away. Additionally, some of the countries these players hail from -- like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela -- have a low high school graduation rate. Many players are excited to join to get a proper education and make their families proud.
“A lot of them didn't want to leave school,” Bolton said. “But, it was the only option for them once they signed their professional contracts.
“They truly are defying expectations and changing the narrative for baseball players and for the future generations.”
The Guardians partnered with Dawere VE, an online international high school based in Venezuela where all classes are in Spanish. Some part-time teachers help the players in their educational careers. It's a program that Bolton said gets a lot of support from the entire organization.
“We have an incredible staff and incredible support, all the way from Paul Dolan to the staff at our Dominican Academy,” Bolton said. “We're able to offer what I feel like is a really high-quality educational experience for them. I think we're doing it better than a lot of teams just because we have such an immense amount of support and resources from across the board.”
Some players are going through their Minor League season while going to school. Gonzalez made his Major League debut last May and completed his education in July.
“An education is one of the most important things someone can have,” Gonzalez said. “I think education is a priority. Without an education, you can’t really do much.
“I’m thankful to have completed my education and I’m excited to have something new in my life.”