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MSU’s Waletich earns high academic honors

EAGER TO HIT — Minnesota State University, Mankato batter Jack Waletich (gold jersey) awaits a pitch during collegiate baseball action against Maryville University on Feb. 22 in St. Louis, Mo. Waletich and the Mavericks played only 10 games this spring before the coronavirus pandemic caused the NCAA to cancel the rest of the schedule. While Waletich earned academic honors en route to completing his bachelor’s degree this spring, he will return to the diamond for the Mavericks next year as he works toward earning his master’s degree. (Photo courtesy of MSU, Mankato sports information)

MANKATO — Jack Waletich is the epitome of the term “student-athlete.”

The Minnesota State University, Mankato outfielder earned selection to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference’s all-academic baseball team both this spring and in 2019.

In fact, the Mavericks’ redshirt junior already graduated summa cum laude — with the highest honors — with a bachelor’s degree in finance/accounting from MSU on May 8.

“I’m right on schedule where I wanted to be academically time-wise,” said Waletich, who produced a near-perfect GPA of 3.98 during his four-year undergraduate tenure. “Due to redshirting my freshman season and then the NCAA extending us an extra year of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic this spring, I technically have two years of eligibility remaining in college.

“I want to work on my master’s (degree) in accounting, so I’ll be back to play baseball next spring.”

Despite hitting opposing pitchers’ deliveries at a .308 clip during MSU’s first 10 games of 2020 before the season was cancelled, Waletich isn’t contemplating the notion that he will be drafted by a Major League Baseball franchise when he completes his collegiate career on the diamond in 2020-21.

“I started seeing the baseball well and got into a (hitting) groove when we were in Florida earlier this spring, but it came to an end quickly after that juncture,” said Waletich, who hit .265 with 21 runs scored and 11 RBIs during 42 games played, including 36 starts, during the 2019 baseball campaign

Waletich and his Maverick teammates received the official disappointing news a couple of days after their flight returned from Florida in March.

The former Fairmont High School athletic standout, however, kept his nose to the proverbial academic grindstone during the ensuing two-month athletic moratorium to achieve the first step in his overall career path.

“Don’t get me wrong — baseball is something I really enjoy doing, but playing professionally is not realistically in my plans,” said Waletich, who earned all-Big South Conference, all-section and Sentinel All-Area baseball accolades for three consecutive prep seasons with the Cardinals.

Waletich will soon begin his internship with Binder Dijker Otte (BDO) in downtown Minneapolis to continue his academic trek to success, while fitting in a number of amateur baseball games to keep his diamond skills intact this summer.

“We (accounting interns) will start the job online due to the pandemic. BDO sent us a laptop to work from home, so I’ll be able to stay in my apartment in Mankato and then pop down to Fairmont at night to play baseball for the Martins, if that actually happens,” said Waletich. “I haven’t heard too many details about the internship yet, but I’m sure at some point I’ll have to eventually work from their offices in the Cities.

“BDO will keep us (interns) busy since the federal government had to move the tax deadline to the middle of July due to the coronavirus.”

Waletich will return to MSU this fall for his final two semesters, and like nearly every aspect of his life, he will be prepared for more distance learning methods at the Mankato-based school.

“It was a seamless transition for most business-related majors this spring,” said Waletich. “We listened to online lectures and then our instructors monitored our tests online, so we didn’t really need to be in the classroom on campus.”

As far as his final collegiate baseball season is concerned, both Waletich’s team and individual goals are realistic probabilities for the 2021 campaign.

“We’ve got all the right pieces coming back next spring. Now we just need to put them together in the right order,” said Waletich. “As a team, we’d like to advance to the regionals and then qualify for the World Series.

“Individually, I’d like to continue to be an everyday starter and contribute to the team I much as I can both offensively and defensively.”

“I guess hitting .300 would be a solid goal from an individual standpoint.”

Waletich, however, will more importantly take aim at the number 4.0, as in reference to his GPA, while working on his master’s degree during his final year at MSU.

“Time has flown by. It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for four years,” said Waletich. “Hopefully, I’ll have the opportunity to line up a good job as a CPA (certified public accountant) by the time I’m done at this time next year.

“I’ve enjoyed my time playing baseball here, but it’ll be nice to have a couple of (academic) degrees to fall back on when entering the job market.”

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