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Hard work in the classroom and the field

Deven Marrero earned his Bachelor's degree during his first year of pro ball.
May 28, 2013

Deven Marrero is a member of the Arizona State University School of Criminology and Criminal Justice class of 2013, but he didn’t attend graduation - he couldn’t. Marrero was 2,000 miles away in Salem, Va. at his full-time job, playing shortstop for the Boston Red Sox High Class A farm team, the Salem Red Sox.  

“While we prefer as many of our students to attend graduation as possible, in this instance, Deven gets an ‘excused absence,’” said Scott Decker, director of the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. “Deven Marrero is typical of so many of our students. He works hard at his job, works hard in his classes and in the end, found success because of that hard work and dedication.”

Marrero credits his mother with not only insisting that he earn his degree, but also for providing him the inspiration. Marrero’s mother, Dayln Nye-Gonzalez, is a homicide detective in the Miami-Dade Police Department. He promised his mom that he would earn a college degree.

“I wanted to make my mom proud,” said Marrero. “She was very happy that I kept my promise to her. Now she’s waiting for my little sister to graduate too.”

The Miami, Fla. native didn’t have to finish school. As a first round pick in the 2012 MLB draft, the 22-year-old received a $2 million signing bonus after his junior year. But during the summer, fall and spring semesters, the criminology and criminal justice major could be found wherever he played reading a text book, writing a paper or participating in an online class discussion. His studiousness was the subject of good-natured ribbing from teammates.

“They kind of messed with me a lot, being that I was a first rounder,” Marrero said. “They’d say, ’Hey, you don’t need school, you don’t need school.’ And I would tell them, ‘Hey, you never know when this game is going to be finished for me.’ So this is something that I have and they don’t. And I’m sure they are going to wish they had a degree one day.”

Marrero benefitted from having the ability to finish his degree online. Marrero attended ASU for three years before becoming an online student. The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers an online degree program rated number one in the country by  

“I would wake up, get my homework done, and then just go out there and play ball and wake up the next day and read a little bit, just get some material in,” said Marrero. “Once you get in that pattern, that groove, you just roll with it. It’s second nature.”

Marrero said he always had the work ethic but learned how to excel on the field and in the classroom thanks to the help of Sun Devil Athletics academic coach Patrice Feulner, who is now assistant athletic director of student-athlete development at Arizona State University.

“Deven was great to work with,” said Feulner. “He came into ASU with a pretty average academic high school background. But from the minute he stepped foot on campus at ASU, I knew he was serious about wanting to do well academically. I hear that a lot, especially the first week of classes, but I could tell he was serious.”

That seriousness showed during his senior year. Marrero took a class load of 35 credit hours after he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox. That meant cramming in homework during the summer league in Connecticut, fall instructional league and spring training in Florida, and High Class A ball in Virginia.  Marrero said he was raised to do things the right way and with full effort. 

“If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right and I’m going to do it the best that I can,” Marrero said.  “That’s kind of how baseball’s helped me in my academics. I play hard. I play every day to win and to do the best that I can. And I take that same attitude into the classroom, and obviously it paid off for me and I got good grades.”

Marrero graduated with a 3.3 grade point average. That’s down from a 3.5 GPA he had entering his senior year, but still impressive considering his travel and workload the past year. Feulner considers Marrero a role model.

“He is an amazing example, especially for our younger guys still playing at ASU, of what it means to be a Sun Devil student athlete,” Feulner said. “He competes in everything he does with passion and character – on the field and in the classroom!”

When asked for advice for fellow criminal justice students, Marrero said the key is to never give up, especially after a bad test score or a less than desirable outcome on a research paper.

“Keep with it,” said Marrero. “When everything gets difficult, just keep going because not many people get the opportunity to do what we do, to get the freedom that we have to study what we like, what we love.”

Now that his classroom studies are over, Marrero is hoping to prove his worth on the field. He started off quickly, batting over .400 the first two weeks of the season before a hamstring injury affected his hitting. After several weeks on the disabled list, Marrero is now batting .235 as he attempts to get his timing back.

“I’m just trusting myself and taking it pitch by pitch,” said Marrero. “Good things happen when you work hard.”

The former Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year has yet to commit an error in the field. Marrero is rated by as one of the Boston Red Sox top ten minor league prospects. The Red Sox thought enough of Marrero to invite him to spring training, the first non-pitching draft pick to be invited in 20 years.  

For now, Marrero is content learning as much as he can while he works his way up to the major leagues. Whenever he gets the phone call to the next level, Marrero says he’ll be ready. ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice director Scott Decker has no doubt his former student will succeed.

“We look forward to seeing him at Fenway Park and following him on NESN (New England Sports Network),” Decker said.