With the anticipation of his upcoming fifth grade graduation growing, Christian Hicks had a prediction to make. Teachers were going around the classroom and asking students what they wanted to do when they got older. Hicks never hesitated.
“I’m going to go to the University of Florida and play baseball,” Hicks recalled.
There wasn’t any doubt for Hicks growing up. Raised by two graduates of UF, he donned orange and blue year-round while always keeping a close eye on what was happening in Florida athletics.
Someday, he knew it would be him wearing a UF jersey on the field at McKethan Stadium. But before that ever happened, Hicks’ parents instilled a strong focus on academics. They are both dentists in St. Augustine, and they made sure their son understood that his dream of playing for the Gators – or college baseball in general – wouldn’t be possible if his grades were in bad shape.
“I take a lot of pride in my academics,” Hicks said. “My parents always stressed that doing schoolwork is more important than baseball. I’ve definitely got to make sure my grades are in order before I worry about anything out here with baseball.”
As Hicks got further into his high school career, it started to look more likely that he would have a chance to make his dream come true. He began to receive interest from the UF coaching staff in the summer that followed his junior year and ultimately committed to the Gators before the start of his senior year at The Bolles School.
Hicks came to the University of Florida anticipating the rigorous class schedule at the Warrington College of Business. Adding baseball to his list of demands only made his schedule more difficult. The spring semester creates a long list of demands – team workouts, practices, games and travel. There can be as many as five games per week, and when games are on the road, they involve long bus rides across the southeast.
A member of the 2016 SEC Academic Honor Roll, Hicks frequently spends road trips staring at his iPad. It’s his best resource for working on homework, preparing for the next week of class or working with classmates on group presentations.
That’s what happened when the Gators opened conference play at Auburn from March 16-19. The team traveled by bus to Auburn on March 16 and practiced immediately after arriving. Before Friday’s 6 p.m. first pitch, Hicks spent most of his day in the hotel room completing homework and working remotely with classmates to get prepared for an upcoming group project. After Saturday’s 2 p.m. game ended, he spent most of the night doing the same thing.
“I’ve always made sure to do the best I can in school and spend a lot of time at home and school on my work to use my time effectively,” Hicks said. “I make sure not to waste time doing things that aren’t going to help push my career going forward.”
It isn’t just a spring occurrence either. During the fall, the baseball team has offseason practices during a few days of the week that sometimes last 3-4 hours. Those are combined with morning workouts, eating up most of Hicks’ time outside of the classroom.
He lives with his brother, who isn’t a student athlete, and the two developed a plan for this year. They aim to spend at least one hour per day on each of their classes. Even if there isn’t pressing work to be done, they’ll reread what they have been learning or read ahead to introduce themselves to the concepts that are coming.
Sometimes their schedules make it tough for that goal to be met, but they make it a priority to stay on top of their schoolwork.
“You have to find your times throughout the day that you can get your homework in,” Hicks said. “Sometimes it’s easy to just sit on the couch and watch TV or take a nap, but the schoolwork has to be done. If you don’t do it, you’re not going to play anyway. You might as well spend your time wisely.”
Hicks, who has split time between first base and shortstop for the Gators this season, will graduate with his BABA with a specialization in sports management in 2018. His time at the Heavener School will stand out long after he graduates.
“That new building is so awesome with all the technology in there,” Hicks said. “All of the professors I’ve had have been really responsive and helpful when I can’t be there because of baseball. I’ve had a really great experience at the Heavener School.”
Whenever he reaches the end of his playing career, he’s hoping to use his degree from Warrington to work in a professional baseball team’s front office.
With high draft picks coming out of the baseball program annually, the UF coaching staff has built strong relationships with front offices for teams across Major League Baseball. Hicks has already started conversations with the coaching staff and plans to lean on their connections to find an inroad to a job in baseball.
“Hopefully I’ll be a general manager one day,” Hicks said. “That’s the goal.”
And he has already reached one important goal before.