GOING TO BAT FOR STUDENTS
Lauren Wible LaBarca ’06, a member of the
25th anniversary team in softball, had a year
for the ages in 2005. She led the nation in
batting with a .524 average and was the
Patriot League’s Female Scholar-Athlete of the
Year, selected from among hundreds of com-
petitors in all of the league’s women’s sports.
Grateful for the partial scholarship that
made it possible for her to attend Bucknell,
LaBarca says she got “the best of both worlds
… I was able to expand my knowledge in a
worldly way … while playing the sport I love.”
Now teaching 7th-grade English in rural
Adams County, Pa., LaBarca says the
broader perspective she gained at Bucknell,
plus her athletic accomplishments, make
her more effective with students, many of
whom have never ventured beyond county
lines. — Matt Zencey
David Keller ’03, director of professional scouting for the Miami Marlins, relaxes in his office at Marlins Park and proudly remembers his
time traveling around the U.S. as a scout, being the eyes and ears of an organization and providing information that helped higher-ups decide
whether to try to trade for a player, promote one of their own or cut a guy loose.
For about five years, “every February through October, I was on the road 24 to 25 days a month,” says Keller, who has visited innumerable
ballparks and previously tracked the development of minor-league players for the Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks.
“One good thing about all that travel, I was able to connect with many of my former classmates at Bucknell,” he says. He was also fortunate
to have a patient wife, Katherine Thompson ’05, whom he met at Bucknell. They have two sons.
Growing up in Sellersville, Pa., Keller played shortstop on his Little League team and dreamed about one day seeing his face on a baseball
card. In high school, he continued playing, but after a serious back injury, he began imagining himself as someone behind the scenes, perhaps
as a college coach or a manager.
After graduating with a degree in management, he worked in Bucknell’s admissions office, coached a local high-school baseball team and
sent résumés to every Major League team. The Philadelphia Phillies hired him as an intern in the operations department, and several years
later, he was a Mets scout, beginning his long sojourn through airports and motel rooms.
After studying thousands of wannabe Major Leaguers, Keller believes he can spot one in the making.
“Athletic ability is easy to identify,” he says. “But the separator is a player’s makeup. As he progresses
and the competition rises, the differences in ability come in the form of things that aren’t as easy to
see. What’s his body language like on the field? Does he take pride in coming to the field and competing
every day? How does he interact with teammates and coaches? That’s how you can begin to evaluate
what’s in his heart — and in his mind.”
Yet Keller admits that he hasn’t always been right.“We all want players we like to excel, especially
those that remind us of ourselves,” he says. “And I regret recommending players who never quite
performed up to expectations. A couple times I’ve said, ‘Wow, I missed that one.’ Failure is part of
evaluating human beings.”
These days, even though Keller heads a staff of 13 scouts who file reports and travel the country, he
still jets off to observe players working their way up the ranks. But his sons are his favorite athletes to
watch. He enjoys Little League games but admits it’s hard not to observe them as a scout would.
“I watch the game through a different lens,” Keller says with a laugh. “But no matter the level, I love
THE SECRET TO SUCCESS
the game and love it even more than when I was a little boy.” — Benjamin Gleisser
can get a great education and have an amazing experience in whatever sport
you’re doing.” Playing at Bucknell, he says, “helped me become the player and
person that I am.”
Fifteen years after his glory days on the basketball court, two-time Academic
All-American Valter Karavanic ’00 is now an electrical engineer with a high-
tech company in New England. “Bucknell prepared me very well for this part of
life,” he says. It was “great training in problem-solving and working with others.”
So, here’s what Bucknell’s recipe for success looks like: Start with specially
talented students who are highly proficient in both academics and athletics.
Connect them with coaches and faculty who support the scholar-athlete in
the classroom and on the playing field. Provide excellent athletics facilities,
and make sure that every varsity sport has the resources it needs to succeed.
Then match your teams against other schools that share a commitment to the
scholar-athlete ideal. Don’t panic when teams hit a bad patch — just try to fix
what has gone wrong. Do all that, and you produce alumni who value the scholar-
athlete culture and do their part to make sure the winning tradition continues.
As senior associate athletics director Maisha Kelly says, “We’ve proven we
can be successful; you can have the balance [between athletics and academics].
“Alumni have truly just built a rich culture, a standard that really only accepts
success in those [two] arenas,” she adds. “What we’re doing is really just
continuing what was set out before us.”
Matt Zencey is a retired journalist living in West Chester, Pa.
DAVID KELLER ’03 FULFILLS HIS MAJOR LEAGUE DREAMS
Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly (left)
confers with David Keller ’03.