The season is underway for two St. Clair County Community College alumni as assistant coaches for Saginaw Valley State University’s baseball team.
Dr. Jay Scott and Jason Ball are spending a lot of time on the road keeping up with the team’s 50-game schedule that has already taken them to Atlanta, St. Louis and Nashville, while still returning home for work and family.
Both Scott and Ball credit SC4 as the place where their careers took shape. Scott, 39, who grew up in Burlington, Ontario, is currently an associate professor of biology at SVSU, director of the SVSU Electron Microscopy Facility and assistant baseball coach.
Scott began his collegiate baseball career at SC4 before transferring to SVSU in 2001. He attended SC4 for three semesters and played on the baseball team in the 1999-2000 seasons as a centerfielder and leadoff hitter.
He decided to attend SC4 primarily because of a baseball scholarship, but Scott said the college’s learning environment was particularly appealing.
“SC4 provided a great environment to start my academics,” Scott said. “The transition from high school to college can be overwhelming, but the small campus and class sizes were not a large departure from what I experienced in high school. This created a comfortable, familiar environment where I could focus on the challenges of college academics without struggling to adjust to life outside of the classroom.
“The small class sizes provided an opportunity to for me to grow as a student and as an individual,” he continued. “It allowed me to receive a lot of guidance and mentorship from both academic counselors and professors, and also provided a classroom experience that was engaging and unintimidating.”
During Scott’s tenure at SVSU, he earned first team All-GLIAC honors both seasons and was named the 2001 top offensive player for the Cardinals. He currently holds SVSU baseball single season records in batting average (.463) and on-base percentage (.549)
After graduation, Scott earned a Ph.D. at Queen’s University in Ontario and completed postdoctoral fellowships at the University of New Mexico and University of Iowa’s Department of Internal Medicine.
“When I think about the influences that have led me to my current career, SC4 started it all,” said Scott, who now lives in Auburn, Michigan. “Ultimately, I chose a career that I love at a smaller institution where undergraduate students are the focus and where professors develop and mentor students on a more personal level.
“My experience as a member of the SC4 baseball team was equally impactful,” he noted. “The experiences I had and the bonds that I developed with my teammates are some of my most cherished memories; however, the greatest impact came from my coaches, Rick Smith, Pete Lacey and Jan Prozorowicz. These coaches taught me the value of hard work, discipline, accountability, and skills that shaped both my abilities on the baseball field and my character.”
Ball, 41, is also an assistant baseball coach at SVSU who works with pitchers and oversees the recruiting process.
A 1995 Sandusky High School graduate, Ball was a left-handed pitcher for two seasons at SC4, where he served as sports editor for the Erie Square Gazette student newspaper.
“For being from a small town, I was really lost,” Ball said. “There was no way I was going to walk into a four-year school and survive. If I would have gone away, I don’t know that I would have stayed.
“(SC4) was a great transition for me,” he continued. “It was kind of a middle ground.”
Ball transferred to Central Michigan University and became a volunteer assistant from 1999-2001, when he worked closely with current SVSU head coach Steve Jaksa.
Ball said SC4 is where he made an important connection while doing work-study for his health and science instructor Dick Groch, an SC4 baseball coach from 1965-82 recognized as the scout who signed Derek Jeter to the New York Yankees. Groch also coached U.S. and Canadian teams in the Pan American Games and was a scout and special assistant to the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers.
After receiving his bachelor’s in journalism from CMU, Ball used that connection to become an associate scout with the Brewers for three years. He has also coached at Essexville Garber and Nouvel Catholic Central and was involved with the Saginaw Bay Riverdawgs travel team.
Ball, who lives in Bay City with wife Jill and children Nathan and Morgan, agreed that SC4 is where it all began.
“It’s where everything started,” Ball said. “Honestly, if it wasn’t for SC4, I don’t know what I’d be doing, but I wouldn’t be where I am now.
“Those two years at SC4 were some of the best experiences ever,” he added. “I met so many people there, and all the connections I made, I still keep in touch with them.”