Stanford catcher Handley’s backup plan is career in medicine
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Last summer in the Cape Cod League, when most everybody else focused on baseball and nothing more, Maverick Handley carved out extra time to work toward his pre-med path and future after sports.
Observe a surgery in his spare time? Absolutely.
Handley is a junior catcher at Stanford eligible for next week's amateur draft. His fallback plan is to attend medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon.
At home in Colorado, Handley shadows doctors at every chance. He did the same while playing for Falmouth on the Cape.
"No internships that were too serious where I was really getting my hands dirty and putting in some serious hours, but enough to where I'm still getting exposure and making sure I'm still interested," Handley says. "Ideally I go out and play baseball forever, and when I'm 40 I can be like, 'All right, what do I want to do with my life?' It's definitely stuff that interests me."
All of the doctors he encounters encourage Handley to chase his baseball dream first, telling him, "You can always go back to medical school, you can't always play baseball."
"It's just kind of stuck with me," he says.
For now, his focus is on a deep postseason run with the Cardinal. Handley is hitting .291 with two home runs, 13 doubles, three triples and 19 RBIs for 11th-seeded Stanford going into this weekend's NCAA Regional at home in Sunken Diamond.
On Wednesday, he was named Pac-12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year and to the all-conference team after leading the Pac-12 with seven pickoffs. Handley threw out 10 baserunners attempting steals.
Somehow, with all the demands of being a Stanford student-athlete majoring in bioengineering, Handley has created an impressive balance. His 3.78 GPA is tied for the highest on the Pac-12 All-Academic team announced Thursday.
A three-hour lab each Wednesday last season meant Handley couldn't practice with the rest of his Stanford teammates those nights. He showed up in the mornings to get in all his work — hitting, throwing, conditioning.
"Part of what makes, I don't want to say our program, but Stanford athletics great is we are willing to adjust to the kid as much as we can. We understand what an unbelievable opportunity it is for these kids to go to school," says Cardinal assistant coach Jack Marder, who guides the catchers. "If he's trying to be an orthopedic surgeon and we're going to get in the way of that so he can make baseball practice, to me that's ridiculous, so we're going to find a way, any way we can, to still develop him as a player with allowing him to do what he needs to do from the academic side of it. My obligation is just to be available to him."
Everyone who knows Handley figures if it were possible he would probably pack even more into his busy schedule. That includes mentoring at Palo Alto High School near Stanford's campus.
"I think he probably wishes there were more hours in the day," Stanford pitching coach Thomas Eager says. "He likes to stay busy and I think he's one of those guys who wishes he could do more stuff. He's quite a remarkable young man how he goes about his business and how mature he is. He's always thinking about the next thing. I know he wants to be a big leaguer and that's what he wants to do, but I think it's really cool to hear him say, 'When baseball's over, I can still be a doctor and I'm ready to be a doctor.'"
The coaches challenged Handley to become a more consistent hitter this season, and he has emerged as one of the steady bats in Stanford's lineup to complement his strong defense.
Eager has never had a catcher he let call pitches, something Handley gets to do sometimes.
"I've never seen Maverick Handley ever be overwhelmed," Eager says. "He's never been overwhelmed with anything he's done. I think it's just part of his DNA. A lot of that is due to how his parents probably raised him, his work ethic. I've never seen him complain and quite frankly you wouldn't know how much is on his plate because he doesn't really tell you. He doesn't make excuses, it's never like he's tired and he's never asking for shortcuts. Unless you ask him or people tell you, you really don't know how much stuff that kid is doing off the field. It's quite amazing."
Handley's mother, Jill, is a certified nursing assistant who cares for his 7-year-old brother with autism. Knox is a first-grader in an inclusive classroom.
"He's grown so much, which is awesome," Handley says.
Handley came to Stanford with a plan and made sure to get his academic adviser on board from Day 1.
"Honestly, it hasn't been that difficult, which is great," he says of doing it all. "Just some amount of mass hours of just putting in the work."
A broken ankle suffered during his sophomore year of high school helped spark his interest in medicine.
He has observed a half-dozen or so surgeries.
"If you've never been in a hospital or in a surgery you don't have any exposure to it and you're not going to really know what it's like or why you'd be interested in it besides people saying 'doctors make a lot of money,'" he says. "It was a pretty cool experience."
Handley intends to use offseason breaks to focus on his next career, with plans to return to Stanford in the fall to finish his degree.
"Once he knows what he wants to do, he just makes it so that it's impossible for him not to do it," Marder says. "I think the reason why he's interested in surgery or the medical field, I think he looks at it and goes 'I can make a huge impact on this and it's exciting for me, it's fun and it challenges me, so why not see if I can do it?' For the backup plan of it, I think that he's always thinking, 'How can I maximize myself as a person first?' versus it being, 'I have this pressure on me to maximize what other people want from me.'"