By Megan Silver Droesch / Sports Information Office
WILLIMANTIC, Conn. On March 11, Merlyn Herrera will take the field with the rest of the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball team for the 2018 season-opener in Auburndale, FL. The 5-10 senior catcher, who was born in the Dominican Republic home, will look to maintain his position behind the plate for the 2018 season.
Head Coach Matt LaBranche calls the 21-year-old Herrera "a coach's dream who is committed to excellence in everything he does on and off the field." LaBranche continues that "As a catcher, Merlyn plays a critical role in leadership."
As Herrera looks ahead to his fourth and final spring season as an Eastern Warrior, he is also mindful of his future.
This past January, Herrera represented Eastern at the NCAA National Convention in Indianapolis, IN as a member of the Division III Student Immersion Program. This program, founded in 2015, brings together 40 ethnic minority students with an interest in Division III coaching and/or administration. "The goal is to build a pipeline of talented ethnic minority candidates in an effort to ultimately diversify the division," states the NCAA. Held annually, selected students are fully funded to attend this convention. In addition to the traditional convention schedule, Herrera and his fellow grant recipients received DiSC personality training and were provided with mentors to guide them through the process.
Selected by an interview committee made up of six administrators, professors, and coaches, Herrera is looking to put his time at the convention to good use. "I always wanted athletics to be part of my future, but I've never had a serious opportunity present itself like this one," says Herrera, a Hartford resident and Cheney Tech of Manchester graduate majoring in Business with a minor in Business Information Systems.
Herrera was kept busy attending sessions on fundraising and the challenges of Division III athletics. Herrera was particularly interested in discussions relating to diversity inclusion in college athletics. Herrera states, "It really opened my eyes about the lack of opportunities that are given to minorities to be put into administration roles."
Herrera credits his mentors, Miriam Merrill, Associate Athletic Director from Hamilton College, and Miracle Pierre, a lawyer with experience in compliance and eligibility, as particularly beneficial. "These are the people with whom I spent the most time," states Herrera. "They are the ones who I will be in contact with if I ever have any questions or need help." Herrera also used the opportunity to network with current college administrators, NCAA officials, and "other student athletes who have similar backgrounds and share similar interests."
Of the experience as a whole, Herrera states, "My time at the convention provided me with the resources necessary in order for me to meet my career goals. The convention is a great tool if you are not sure what you want to do within athletics; it helps you see which positions fits best with your interests."
When asked for his favorite highlight from the experience, Herrera recalled attending the Welcoming Ceremony at the NCAA Hall of Champions with retired Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, along with other athletes. "It was a great experience," reports Herrera. "You are able to learn more about college athletics, what it takes to get into it. It provides great networking opportunities which you won't get anywhere else. If you want to work in college athletics, this is a must go."