Varsity Club Hosts Princeton’s Major Leaguers

Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley, a former catcher for the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners, follows the major leagues closely, especially when one of his former players is on TV. In recent years, that has been a near-daily occurrence.

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Alumni major leaguers, from left, Chris Young ’02, Ross Ohlendorf ’05, David Hale ’11, and Will Venable ’05. Click to enlarge photo. (Courtesy the Princeton Varsity Club)

Bradley’s four major-league protégés — Chris Young ’02 and Ross Ohlendorf ’05 of the Washington Nationals, Will Venable ’05 of the San Diego Padres, and David Hale ’11 of the Atlanta Braves — returned to campus Dec. 10 for a Princeton Varsity Club panel discussion at McCosh Hall. The audience was noticeably younger than the typical public-lecture crowd — and featured more baseball caps.

Bradley, athletic director Gary Walters ’67, and audience members asked questions in an open forum that covered topics including professional mentors (Young said teammate Greg Maddux was “the best pitching coach I’ve ever had”); nutrition (Ohlendorf favors a low-carb, steak-filled diet; perhaps not coincidentally, his dad raises longhorn cattle); their most challenging foes (for Venable, San Francisco pitcher Tim Lincecum has been particularly puzzling); and why pitchers love to bat (“It’s fun,” Hale said, “and they don’t expect anything from you”). 

One member of the audience asked Young about the Ivy League rule that prohibits an athlete who goes pro in one sport from continuing his collegiate career in another — a regulation that cut short Young’s promising basketball career. “As I’ve gotten older, I see some of the merits to the rule,” Young said. “I do not agree with the rule, but I understand it a little bit more than I did at the time. At the time, I felt like I was being picked on, that it was specific to me, and that it was completely unfair.” (Walters called the rule “anachronistic” and suggested that the league should re-examine it.)

Others in the audience asked the players about the role that their education played in their professional lives. Venable said that having his degree has cushioned the blow of low moments, such as when he was demoted to the minor leagues. Being a Princeton grad means knowing that “if baseball’s over, life goes on,” he said. 

Ohlendorf and Young added that being an Ivy Leaguer has come with a de facto role as the arbiter of teammates’ arguments, even when topic is far outside their areas of expertise. “You can tell them anything, and they’ll believe it,” Young joked.

VIEW: More photos of Princeton’s major leaguers at PrincetonVarsityClub.com