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MONMOUTH, IL – It was an offer too good for four Monmouth College baseball seniors to pass up: get an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA after COVID-19 wiped out their spring season.
First baseman Mike Dato (Oswego, Ill./Oswego), pitcher Arturo Monroy (Chicago, Ill./DePaul College Prep) and catchers Jake Brewer (Gibson City, Ill./Gibson City) and Shamus Murphy (Milan, Ill./Rock Island) have opted for the additional year, although each took different routes to reach their decision. Head coach Alan Betourne reports it was an easy call for Brewer and Murphy – both transfers – as they finish their degrees, Brewer in exercise science and Murphy in kinesiology.
“Jake and Shamus already had some classes to take for next year,” Betourne explained. “It was a no-brainer for them. For Mike and Arturo, it was a completely different decision-making process.”
Monroy wasted little time contacting Betourne when the NCAA announced it would grant an extra year of eligibility to the spring sports seniors who had their seasons cut short by the pandemic.
“I was giving those guys some time to relax and let everything sink in before I even threw it out there,” said Betourne of the NCAA ruling. “Arturo did everything he was supposed to do with the school and was really on top of everything. That really helped Mike with his decision.”
Dato had perhaps the most difficult decision to make, turning down a pro contract to finish his Fighting Scots’ career. A three-year starter who slugged eight home runs in the Scots’ Midwest Conference championship season of 2018, Dato will enter the 2021 campaign with 14 career roundtrippers, needing just five to break Monmouth’s career mark. His 86 RBIs also puts him within striking distance of the career record of 113 set by Ryan Stubler. He’s also just four shy of tying the hit-by-pitch record after getting plunked 18 times. None of those marks were a factor in his decision to return. Instead, it came down to finishing what he started.
“I was offered an opportunity to play for an independent team in Arizona which would have taken my eligibility away if I accepted,” said Dato. “Something about the way this year ended did not feel right with me and that was not how I wanted to leave Monmouth. After long talks with family and friends, it started to get easier on what I really wanted to do and that was to come back for another year.”
Monroy and Dato are each seizing the opportunity to add to their educational résumés. Dato, who majored in exercise science, plans to pick up a minor in, ironically, global public health. Monroy will add a major in data science to go with his math degree.
“I’ll only be here in the spring since that’s when the classes I need for my second major are offered,” explained Monroy. “I’m lucky to have this opportunity and I’ll be graduating next year with a double major in math and data science. I think that will help me more with the career I want to go into.”
Murphy and Brewer already knew they would be back for the 2020-21 academic year, but until the NCAA’s announcement of extra eligibility, didn’t know they would have one more season in the sun. It’s breathing new life into the four seniors who thought their college playing days were over.
“My immediate feelings were of sadness for my teammates who were not going to be able to finish their senior season after the hard work they put in for themselves and the team,” said Brewer of the season’s sudden end.
That feeling of incompleteness was shared by the foursome when the news came in early March that their season had ended with the last game of a 6-4 Florida trip.
“My initial emotion was mainly shock,” said Monroy. “It’s something no one wanted to hear and I just felt like something was taken away from me that I worked hard for and there was nothing I could do. From the beginning, my family was very supportive. My parents from the start said if I wanted to go back to finish my last season that they would support me. What really got me back was I wanted to end things on my terms and not everyone gets an opportunity to come back.”
Initially, Dato was in denial.
“I had the feeling we were untouchable and that nothing was going to actually do us harm,” admitted Dato. “It wasn’t until Grinnell became the first one (conference team) to drop that it became real. It was heartbreaking because we were just starting to get hot in Florida. I’m happy with my decision to return and want to thank everyone who has helped me through this decision process including the athletic department, my advisers, professors and the registrar. Without their help, coming back in the spring wouldn’t have been possible.”
Betourne felt the same sadness and lack of closure as his seniors. Just completing his fifth season at the helm, Betourne offered his support to his players, regardless of their decision.
“I wanted to make sure the guys didn’t feel any pressure to come back,” he said. “I told them, ‘Talk with your family, make sure it was right financially, academically and professionally.’ It’s great that all of them have the support of their family to come back. They are pretty lucky. I love being around our guys and I get another year with them. I’d say I’m pretty lucky, too.”
**For more information contact: Dan Nolan 309-457-2322, firstname.lastname@example.org**