Miguel Batista -- author, musician, poet and pitcher -- spent his Friday afternoon speaking to youth at the Chelsea School in Silver Spring, Maryland. Founded in 1976, the Chelsea School is a college preparatory school serving students in grades 5-12 with language-based learning disabilities from the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
Batista spoke to the students about his journey to the big leagues and his unique appreciation for education, but colored his presentation with plenty of funny anecdotes and quotes from people who've inspired him -- people like Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan, Ken Griffey Jr. and Batista's own grandmother.
"For him to come in -- as a published writer -- is huge because those kinds of communication skills are going to get you through life," said Head of School Tony Messina. "They genuinely want to know, what does it take? When you get disappointed or when you get down, what do you do? Learning is a real challenge and Miguel spoke directly about how to build yourself back up and get yourself back on track."
Batista told the students about waking up on February 29, 1988 and hearing that some scouts were holding a tryout in a sugar mill factory field outside of Santo Domingo. Batista was the only pitcher to show up that day and the only person who signed a contract. He promised his parents he'd go to college if baseball didn't work out, though his mother was skeptical.
In 1997, he met one of his heroes -- basketball legend Michael Jordan -- in the tunnel at Wrigley Field. "I'm going to tell you one thing, kid. A man is what a man knows," Jordan told Batista, and the reliever never forgot it.
Batista developed a renewed focus on his education. He wanted to learn everything he could about a variety of subjects. Currently studying Criminal Justice, Batista also reads, writes and practices music, and firmly believes that learning is a lifelong process.
"A book is nothing more than the experience of a man, put into a little square turned into black and white that allows you to learn without going through the pain he went through to learn what he did...and you can get it for only $20. I don't know about you, but that's a hell of a deal," Batista said, encouraging the youngsters to appreciate reading and learning.
The teenagers peppered him with incredible questions about how he handles media pressure, how he bounces back from a bad performance, how he teaches his young teammates and how he serves his community.
"This is an unexplainable feeling," Batista said. "Probably a lot of athletes don't know how much of an impact they can have on a kid's life."
The Nationals also announced that they will present a $2,000 scholarship to a 2011 graduate of Chelsea School. The winner must have a grade point average of 2.5 or above, letters of recommendation, a plan to pursue undergraduate studies and a completed essay about their leadership skills and extracurricular activities. The senior class enjoyed Friday evening's game against the Braves with complimentary tickets from the Nationals and watched Batista pitch a scoreless frame and strike out two Braves hitters.
"I've spent my whole life fighting this fight for kids," Messina continued. "It's really emotional to have something big like the Nationals to care at this level the way we do. To have the Nationals come and support the kind of program that we have and to have someone who is playing in the big leagues come in and share his time, it's like a gift from an angel."