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AT WHAT COST: Local grads take different journeys to grab scholarships

A DAY TO REMEMBER

Dan Jaffe didn’t have to think to remember when he received his first scholarship offer to play Division I baseball.

"Oct. 16, 2009," the catcher and 2010 graduate of Palo Verde High School recalled. Villanova’s offer of a 25 percent scholarship to play at a prestigious university was too good to pass up, and he soon committed to the Wildcats.

"I was ecstatic. They were always at the top of my list," he said.

While high school baseball was key in developing him into a college prospect, Jaffe also credited playing in the Arizona Senior Fall Classic for the Las Vegas Summer Baseball Club: "I got scouted. Basically it was summer ball and scout ball that got me first noticed."

A political science major, Jaffe says his lifelong focus on academics not only helped in Villanova’s offering a scholarship, but in his decision to attend the Big East Conference school.

"My dad always taught me I was one injury away from my (baseball) career ending," he says. "That was the way I was always brought up, that as long as I kept my grades up, I could play as much baseball as I wanted. Just make sure that all my homework is done. And it paid off. Baseball is not going to last forever, but that degree will."

MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE

Matt Mountain, a 2011 Faith Lutheran High School graduate, fulfilled a dream when he signed a National Letter of Intent last year to play lacrosse at Grand Canyon University, an NCAA Division II school in Phoenix.

But when Grand Canyon announced in March that it would drop its NCAA program at the end of the 2011 season, Mountain had a decision to make. Should he reopen his recruitment and seek a new scholarship, or still attend Grand Canyon?

Mountain chose to stick with Grand Canyon because the school will still pay his $18,000 scholarship, and the lacrosse program will move to the club level.

"It was (stressful) at first because they dropped the team," said Mountain, who will play attack. "But then they called me back and said they were going club, and it was a relief after that.

"It’s nice to know that I can still go to school and play and not worry about money."

Grand Canyon reportedly dropped its NCAA lacrosse program after the school considered moving to Division I.

Most of the top-tier programs are in the East and Midwest, and travel costs would be prohibitive.

Faith Lutheran coach James Gravitt said the dearth of West region lacrosse programs in Division I is frustrating, but players have a better chance to land scholarships elsewhere if their academics stand out.

"Kids should never forget how important grades are," Gravitt said.

"Even if you’re looking to go club, you still have to get through the admissions office. I’ve been involved in a lot of recruiting, and the first part of the conversation is how well the kid plays. Then it gets on to SATs. These coaches know, it isn’t about how good you are if they can’t get you in."

IMPORTANCE OF CLUB

Mickayla Romero achieved enough success in softball and academics at Valley High School that a college scholarship might have come her way, anyway.

But excelling in club softball elevated the pitcher and shortstop’s recruiting to another level.

Romero, who shone with the California Lite club team during high school off-seasons, committed to Manhattan College last fall before her senior season at Valley.

She signed with the Division I school in New York in November, accepting a roughly 70 percent scholarship, according to her father, Danny Romero.

"We played locally for most of her career in softball, up until her sophomore year," he said. "We took her out of state to play (club) for a California team, and (coach) Pam Newton helped my daughter. She explained to my daughter that she had to put out videos to colleges to be recognized."

Danny Romero said whatever was spent for tournaments and showcases throughout California was well worth it.

"It cost money to go down there and spend your time and energy and effort. … The key to a girl achieving her softball goals is to be able to show yourself to colleges throughout the country."

Still, he said, none of Mickayla’s softball accolades would have mattered if not for her solid academic background.

"The scholarships are for sports, but if you don’t have the grades, you’re not going anywhere."

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