Former baseball player turned businessman Derek Poppert was the first guest speaker in the “Life Beyond Sports” series, providing wisdom for student athletes after their time involved in college sports end.
By Ally Sullivan
In the first ever “Life Beyond Sports” series, the Saint Marys Community welcomed guest speaker Derek Poppert. Poppert, a Bay Area native, grew up loving the game of baseball as an exceptional Shortstop, and eventually following it all the way from Acalanes High School to the University of San Francisco.
The process Poppert described to make it to a competitive level did not come without challenges, “I wasn't heavily recruited, I had this chip on my shoulder that I should be highly recruited” Poppert said.
Nevertheless, he found comfort and culture at USF, deciding the college was the best place to be. At USF he described the rigorous transition from being a high school athlete to a collegiate athlete as being challenging, “I was not easily able to coast [through]. In college days were more structured and I now had more responsibility. I took school more seriously in college, looking at Grad[uate] school if baseball did not work out.”
Fortunate for Poppert he was sought out in the baseball realm, initially being picked to play for the Cincinnati Reds. He turned down the offer to focus on his senior year at USF, in hopes that he would be higher up in the draft the following year. This allowed time for Poppert to take a step back and start thinking of what life may look like after baseball. He thought about beginning to travel, and what Graduate school might be like, developing new interests off the field. Eventually the draft came again, and Poppert was successfully brought on to play for the Seattle Mariners in their minor league, after a short amount of time he decided to retire from his beloved sport and step into what he referred to as the “real world.”
The cozy confines of college felt like a distant memory for Poppert. Poppert came out of college with a degree in Global Politics, and like many others struggled to connect it to a career. Now away from baseball he described the separation of his identity away from being an athlete, claiming the transition to be easier for him than most because he had other interests.
“I sort of zig zagged back and forth in a trial of different things, circling to the tech industry and UX design” Poppert said.
Poppert now four years into UX design, and working for a popular sports ecommerce company Fanatics, reflects that he could never have pictured that his current life is where his path would have led him to. “If you asked me what I did 10 years ago, I wouldn't even know what my job [would be].”
Popperts biggest piece of advice to a student-athlete, is to look at practicality. He advised those on the call to be weary of just choosing classes that will help you learn more about an interesting subject, but to view it more practically for how would it translate into a career. He urged students to ask themselves “How can I actually make money from this?” Much appreciation should be given to Poppert on behalf of the Saint Marys community for sharing his life experiences, and reminding students that interests can change and sometimes life may throw you a curveball.
Author’s Note: Special thanks to Derek Poppert for his participation in the “Life Beyond Sports Series."
Madison Sciba '24,