Islander Student-Athlete Overcomes Early Academic Struggles to Become No. 3 Pitcher in the Nation

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – One year ago, Aaron Hernandez, a sophomore at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, experienced what many student-athletes fear – getting kicked-off the team. Hernandez, who became academically ineligible to continue playing baseball because of a low GPA, said the experience was an eye-opener. But with a healthy dose of persistence and dedication, he made his way back to the pitcher’s mound and rocketed to the number three ranking in the nation for collegiate baseball pitchers.

“I’ve always loved baseball, it’s my first love,” said Hernandez. “Baseball always came first for me, but during my freshman year that all changed. I had problems going to class and I was immature about everything. I had to change and work harder to improve my academic performance so I could play baseball again.”

Hernandez did not allow this setback to stymie his passion for baseball and sought support from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi resources including tutors, academic mentors and coaches in the Compliance and Student-Athlete Services (CSAS). The CSAS provided Hernandez one-on-one tutoring sessions with Jennifer Baker, director of CSAS, who helped him to gain a better understanding of his course material.

“Aaron is one of those success stories we refer to when we have other students in similar situations,” shared Baker. “Having Aaron work to overcome those setbacks, realize the importance of academic achievement and work hard to be successful in the classroom is a testament to his desire to be a true student-athlete.”

In addition, Hernandez committed to improving his academic performance by changing his priorities and learning better time management. He not only established an organized schedule but also reduced the time he spent hanging out with his friends, playing video games and watching movies.

“I made a mistake, so I had to face the consequences and the facts,” said Hernandez. “I had to work harder if I wanted to play baseball again. So, I spent more time in the study hall doing homework.”

Hernandez, who is originally from Corpus Christi, returned to the field this year and since then, his expertise as a right-handed pitcher has contributed to the Island University baseball team’s overall success. Throughout his baseball career, Hernandez has appeared in 20 games with five starts, pitched 39 1/3 innings and earned 41 hits and 31 runs as well as 37 strikeouts.

“If Aaron continues being a good student-athlete it's possible he is going to become the best baseball player to have ever put on an Islander uniform,” stated Scott Malone, head coach of the Islander Baseball Team. “There is value in this 21-year-old. Aaron is only scratching the surface of how great he can be, his best days are just ahead of him.”

Even though his main goal is to play baseball professionally, Hernandez is currently working on his Bachelor of Arts in Communication, a discipline he chose because he was fascinated by the many different perspectives communication encompasses. The student-athlete acknowledges the path was not easy and encourages other Islanders to never give up on their dreams.

“When you feel like things are falling apart, just stop sit back, relax and look at everything you have to do,” concluded Hernandez. “Planning, getting your priorities straight and making sacrifices are the most important – especially if you want to be at the top in your academics.”