Whether he's in the classroom or on the field, Burlington Bees shortstop Ed Lucas knows the meaning of hard work.
Having graduated from Dartmouth College, Lucas is among a small number of Minor League players who holds an Ivy League degree.
An eighth-round draft pick by the Kansas City Royals, Lucas did not want his academic success to overshadow his athletic accomplishments at Dartmouth.
"It's tough," Lucas said. "You have this idea that some people won't take you seriously as an athlete just because you're Ivy League. I just wanted to be a pro baseball player like the rest of my teammates."
His bat has done a good job of silencing any doubters as Lucas currently leads the Bees in hitting and is among the leaders in the Midwest League with a .308 batting average. In May, he boasted a .371 average with 36 hits and 12 RBIs.
Lucas also ended his college career on a high note, being named Ivy League Player of the Year along with claiming the Ivy League batting title before joining the Minors.
Lucas himself is modest and does not like to brag about his endeavors, but the Bees understand they have a intriguing prospect on their roster in Lucas.
"To be such a successful person as far as college is concerned -- and such a great baseball success -- is something special. You don't see it everyday," said Burlington General Manager Chuck Brockett.
The Deltona, Fla., native was introduced to baseball at the tender age of 6 and credits his father for influencing his love for sports.
"My dad was always into sports -- I was playing everything as a kid, but I grew up loving baseball...from T-ball to high school," Lucas said.
This, of course, begs the question, why would Lucas want to go to a school where the academic curriculum would be so demanding that baseball would probably take a backseat?
"I knew [when high school was coming to an end] I was not a guy that would get drafted real high and be able to bypass college altogether," said Lucas, "Even though I had dreamed of being a Major league player, I knew I had to go where I could get the best education and improve in baseball."
Lucas played both football and baseball as a freshman at Dartmouth while earning a degree in sociology.
When asked if the transition into the Minors was even more difficult because his degree preceded him, Lucas says his teammates give him a hard time about it, but he knows it's all in good fun.
"Yeah, they are always on my case. Every misuse of grammar, they're all over me, but it's a great clubhouse. A lot of us were together in Rookie League, so it's nice and comfortable."
Occasional reminders courtesy of his teammates aside, Lucas is well aware he is not in the Minors because of his grades, but because of what he has done on the field.
Although he is known for his offense, Lucas takes pride in being a tough defensive shortstop. He does say that he wants his hitting to be more consistent and to work more on adding power to his swing over the season.
"I want more pop in my bat...slowly but surely I'm trying to add more strength so that I can hit more balls over the fence on a consistent basis."
Lucas appreciates the unique aspect about baseball called the Minor leagues. He says it is not like other sports where the road from the Draft leads straight to the pros, and he is taking advantage of this learning experience.
"The point of the Minors is that the organization is trying to make you better and improve your weaknesses and enhance your strengths...[the Royals] have been great, they let us know why we make mistakes, mental and physical, and that's the key to not repeating them."
Lucas credits his family for playing a large role in his success, noting that had it not been for countless hours spent playing catch with his father or his mother dropping everything to drive him to Little League, he would not be here today.
"There aren't too many professional baseball players with an Ivy League degree, let alone in the top 10 in their league in hitting," said Randy Wehofer, the Bees' assistant general manager. "That's something to be proud of."