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Astros All-Star Jason Castro returns to Stanford to earn degree

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(USA Today)

A typical offseason for a professional baseball player includes spending time with his family, taking a vacation somewhere off the mainland, training for the upcoming season and making appearances with an eye towards giving back to the community. For Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro, the offseason will feature all of the above. However, the 2013 All-Star decided it was equally important to focus on himself and his life after baseball, and that's exactly what he did by returning to Stanford to complete his coursework and earn his college degree.

According to MLB.com's Alyson Footer, Castro headed back to Northern California as soon as the Astros season officially wrapped up to begin on his studies. Two weeks ago, he turned in his final term paper and passed one last final exam to become a college graduate.

"That was my intention my whole time, to graduate," Castro said via cell phone while vacationing in Hawaii. "I was so close when I was [drafted]. It wasn't a question of getting it. It was question of when."

Castro was selected in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft after his junior year at Stanford, 25 units shy of a degree. He got 15 out of the way in 2010, leaving just 10 — equaling two classes — to take care of this offseason. While he always knew he'd get his degree, he had to wait until the timing was right. A knee injury a couple of years ago necessitated a concentration on rehab during the offseason, which pushed back his plans to return to school.

"It was a matter of when did I have an offseason where I wasn't rehabbing," he said. "I would have done it sooner, but 2011 I had to go to fall league and rehab. This was really the first time to get back and finish what I had left."

Anytime you hear of someone returning to school it's inspiring and worthy of praise. Castro certainly deserves a pat on the back and congratulations for putting forth the effort, especially coming off a breakout season that easily could have motivated him to focus entirely on baseball. That said, there's a really interesting and encouraging sidebar to the story that's also worthy of praise.

Here's more from Footer:

Having so few credit hours remaining wasn't a coincidence. It was by design, a byproduct of his coach and advisers making sure Castro was in a good position to have very little left to do in the event that he left school early.

As freshmen, Stanford baseball players are advised to go as heavy on the coursework within their first three years, so in the event that they are drafted, they're still in good position to obtain their degrees.

Head coach Mark Marquess is a big proponent of getting ahead right away, which has helped scores of ballplayers eventually graduate.

The story cites former Astro Eric Bruntlett as another Stanford player who returned to school and graduated while in the midst of his playing career.

Credit to Marquess, that's a great philosophy to push because it gives athletes a light at the end of the tunnel if they decide to leave school early. When a goal is clearly within reach, it's easier to find the time and motivation to complete it. Marquess understands that, and he clearly takes great pride in his players finishing their education, but he also doesn't want to discourage them from pursuing their dreams.

But again, ultimate credit goes to Castro. There will be life after baseball, and owning a Stanford degree is about as solid a foundation as one can build for their future.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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