March 4, 2010
Last year, David Meals led the UC Santa Barbara baseball team in saves and tied for the lead in appearances. It is hard to believe that a pitcher with Meals' talent and durability almost quit baseball a few years ago.
In his senior year of high school, Meals started to feel pain in his throwing arm. Doctors took a look at his elbow and treated him for tendonitis, but the therapy was not helping. Eventually he went to another doctor and underwent an MRI that revealed a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament.
In high school, Meals had been in talks with major league teams and colleges, but he had to start from scratch after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Instead, he would have to stay at home to rehabilitate for a full year.
Meals' older brother, Thomas, had played baseball at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., so David decided to do the same and walk on to the baseball team.
His freshman year at West Valley was disappointing. He pitched through constant arm pain and lost nearly 10 mph on his velocity. When the season was over, he considered giving up baseball, but decided to head back home for physical therapy. Again.
This time around the results were much better. Meals had a stellar sophomore season at West Valley and once again had scholarship offers to play baseball all over the country.
Meals earned a 4.0 GPA and received two associate degrees at West Valley. Unfortunately he could not deliver a valedictorian speech because it conflicted with baseball playoffs.
He is off to a blistering start to his career as a student-athlete at UCSB. He entered with the prestigious Regents Scholarship Award for his previous academic achievements, which is awarded to just 35 incoming undergraduates.
Meals is double majoring in business economics and sociology. Some athletes would struggle to keep up with that much school work, but Meals' is excelling.
He was the only member of the baseball team to be named to the 2009 Big West All-Academic Team, and he took 21.0 units in the fall quarter this year even though students are only required to take 12.0 units per quarter.
Meals has been named co-captain of the baseball team due to the example he sets on and off the field.
"His work ethic is something we'd like other players to follow," said head coach Bob Brontsema. "Guys like David are great to have in the program. He's a great student, talented player, and a really good person."
His hard work and academic achievements have earned him the nickname "The Professor" from associate head coach Tom Myers. "I just try to go out on the field and lead by example," said Meals on his role as team captain.
In addition to all of the time he spends on the field and studying, Meals is also an active member of the community. While at home rehabbing his arm after his senior year of high school, he was an active member in the Big Brothers and Sisters of America organization.
At West Valley, Meals would visit the Stanford Children's Hospital to visit with children in the latter stages of their diseases and bring them baseball memorabilia.
Here at UCSB, Meals participates in the Baseball Buddies program. Kids get to run out on the field with the players and get their autographs after the game.
Meals says one of the most meaningful things he has done is his work in high school with a special needs student named Michael. David and Michael would spend time together at a local restaurant twice a week, where he taught Michael life skills that would help him receive a job out of school.
Meals recently took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about himself.
1. What are you favorite things to do when you're not playing baseball? "Hang out with friends, sleep, watch episodes of How I Met Your Mother with my roommates Marty and Ryan."
2. If you were on a deserted island and could only bring three things what would they be? "My Blackberry, a DVD player, and water. In that order."
3. What is your favorite class you've taken at UCSB? Favorite Professor? "Econ 106 - Managerial Economics. Favorite Professor is Molly George (Sociology)."
4. What's your best pitch? "Slider."
5. What is the best part about waking up in Santa Barbara every day? "The weather, and not having to drive to class."
6. Where is your favorite place to play baseball? "Pitching in the Minnesota Twins' Metrodome was an awesome experience last year."
7. What will you miss the most about life at UCSB after you graduate? "Friends, teammates, and the weather."
8. Where is your favorite place to study? "4th floor of Davidson in the cubby desks."
9. What is your favorite thing to do on an off day? "Catch up on TV shows, watch movies, go for a run, sleep."
10. Do you have any role models? "My parents."
11. Who is the best hitter you've ever faced? "Kyle Bellows (4th Round Draft Pick in 2009)."
12. Do you have any pre-game rituals? "Not really, but I never step on the foul line when I go out to pitch."
13. What is your favorite place to eat in Isla Vista? "IV Deli."
14. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? "Southern California."
15. What song plays when you come out to the mound? "Moby - Extreme Ways."
16. What is your favorite sport to watch other than baseball? "College Basketball."
17. I've always wanted to...? "Go to Europe, haven't made it there yet though."
18. What is one thing about you that most people do not know? "I read a lot of books."
19. Is there a motto that you live by? "Rule #76: No excuses, play like a champion."
20. In one word, how would you describe UCSB baseball? "Legit."