May 17, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -Tavo Hall had to be persuaded by his girlfriend to go through the long application process for valedictorian.
The University of San Francisco shortstop was in the middle of his baseball travel schedule and also trying to get his schoolwork done. Putting together letters of recommendation, a resume and a draft of a speech figured to be too much.
"She was right," said Hall, who has a 3.88 grade-point average and is a three-year starter for a USF team that earned its first NCAA berth in 2006. "It's really cool. More than anything, it's the title that makes people realize. But there are a lot of people with amazing accomplishments here."
On Friday, Hall will address more than 500 of his classmates in the College of Arts and Sciences during their commencement ceremony. The international studies major was chosen valedictorian from a pool of 19 candidates with a minimum GPA of 3.85. He is the first athlete at the school to earn the recognition in at least two decades.
Hall found out he had been selected about a week before he broke his left arm April 14 while tagging a Pepperdine player. He also missed more than 20 games in 2006 with a broken left hand before returning to help the Dons to their first West Coast Conference title.
Now, aside from prepping for his speech and writing final papers, he has been rehabbing his arm and hopes to be swinging a bat and playing catch in the next couple of weeks. Then he's off to the Cape Cod League for a second straight summer.
He will return to college for another year and work toward a minor in legal studies. He hopes to extend his baseball career as long as possible before pursuing a career in international and human rights law.
"I'm happy for him and very proud of him," Dons coach Nino Giarratano said. "We always had a great idea that academically he was going to be outstanding at USF. From a baseball standpoint, he had a lot of intangible things that made him a great student - hard work, attention to detail. We've had two shortened seasons with him. It will be great to have him back."
In Hall's eight-minute speech, he will touch on what brought him from New Mexico to the USF campus in the heart of San Francisco. He once thought he would end up at Cal-Berkeley across the bay.
According to a draft of his commencement speech, he'll talk about choices and ambition and passion.
"I think everyone here has felt the temptation or attraction in striving for that high-profile corporate job, or trying to attend that large university. And while there is nothing wrong with taking that path, I believe now more than ever that it is vital to be aware of other, more essential factors when making decisions about our future," he writes.
"Look for the people who will truly inspire you to fulfill your passions and, above all, allow you to make a difference in whatever field you go into. Remember to look for those people, no matter how small or unknown they may seem at first."
His girlfriend, Katherine Lloyd, will graduate in an earlier ceremony Friday with a degree in communication studies. She offered to help with the speech.
"I can't take too much credit," she said. "I told him, 'This is your chance to get recognized for all the hard work you've done on top of baseball.' He just ran with it. I can't think of a better person who deserves valedictorian. He just goes above and beyond in everything he does. It also kind of counterbalances all the injuries he's had."
Hall redshirted his first season and had surgery on his broken arm. Seven screws and a metal plate were inserted, leaving a 4-inch scar. That's after three screws and a metal plate were put in his hand after last season's injury.
Hall has a .283 batting average for his college career. On Friday, he'll have more family watching him speak than he ever did watching him play.
"I'm impressed with him myself and very proud," said his father, Brad Hall, a lawyer in Albuquerque, N.M. "I was glad he took those steps to get recognized because he is pretty humble by nature."