Rick Devereaux had high hopes when he entered Duquesne University as a freshman in 2008. He was attending a private institution and would be playing Division I baseball for four years.
That was his reality for two seasons.
Just before his sophomore season, Duquesne announced it would eliminate baseball on Jan. 25, 2010. The team would be allowed to play the 2010 season, but it was being dropped along with men's golf, men's swimming and wrestling.
It was a harsh lesson for Devereaux, 22, an Oakdale resident who graduated from West Allegheny High in 2008.
"I signed to go to Duquesne for four years," he said. "I really liked the campus and everything. But it was a blessing in disguise because Duquesne's baseball program wasn't a winner."
Unlike some students whose athletic careers end prematurely, Devereaux caught the attention of Pitt baseball coach Joe Jordano and finished his college career with the Panthers, earning All-Big East honors this past spring while hitting .372 with seven home runs and 54 RBIs. Pitt had an overall record of 28-28. Devereaux started in every game.
"[Duquesne] ended baseball, and I got an opportunity to transfer right away," he said. "Luckily, Pitt came in, scooped me up and took care of me."
After not being drafted in the Major League Baseball draft, he signed a contract with the Washington Wild Things of the independent Frontier League.
Devereaux has played in 45 games since joining the team June 8. He is hitting .262 with two home runs and 21 RBIs.
One week later, former Duquesne teammate Andrew Heck signed with the Wild Things. While Devereaux was going three miles up Forbes Avenue to the Pitt campus when his Duquesne career concluded, Heck traveled halfway across the United States to finish his college career at Oklahoma State University of the Big 12 Conference.
Not many athletes can say they have played on both sides of the Pitt vs. Duquesne rivalry.
All the more unusual for Devereaux was that when the two schools played in 2010, he knew he would compete as a Panther a year later.
"We were lame ducks, but I had already agreed to go to Pitt by the time we played them the two times that year," he said. "[The Panthers] knew I was coming [to Pitt]."
With the Panthers in 2011, Devereaux said he joined a team virtually identical to the one he was trying to beat a year earlier as a Duke. He had some fun teasing his new teammates, especially some of the pitchers he had reached for hits.
"It was a funny situation, but we had fun with it," he said. "It wasn't anything too personal."
What was eye-opening about his life as a Duke was how it ended, and what he did to prolong his college career as a Panther.
"When you're coming out of high school and you're being recruited, you really don't know what you are doing," he said. "I would have never asked the questions that I asked [following high school] when I was coming out of Duquesne. I'd lived it and went through college baseball and had a better understanding of how to talk to coaches."
Once he stepped away from his emotions, he began to understand Duquesne's perspective on eliminating its baseball program.
"You learn a little about business and why they were [cutting baseball] and about college sports and where the money is," said Devereaux, who earned a degree in business administration from Pitt. "Baseball is not a revenue generator at all. You really don't understand that until you are there, and you see what's happening and why they are cutting you.
"Some people held grudges and were upset. I felt bad for some people rather than get mad at Duquesne. I understood why they did it and how they were trying to improve their athletic program in another way. I looked at it as a growing experience in the business world. It's like people getting laid off, and it's obviously not something anyone wants to do. But it's a financial business move, and you wouldn't understand it unless you went through it."
Devereaux has plenty of compassion for former Duquesne coach Mike Wilson.
"He put in a lot of time and [took care of Duquesne's home field in Green Tree]," he said. "That was his field, and Duquesne didn't treat him right in my opinion. It was sad to see that all end for him."
Devereaux would love to play for an MLB team, but he's grateful to be in professional baseball at a venue where his family can watch.
"This is a great situation playing at home, but this isn't where I want to be," he said. "Nothing against Washington. But it's not where I want to play my whole career. I hope to get picked up by an affiliated club at some point and climb through those rankings. That's why I'm here.
"Players are here because you want to continue and get with an affiliated program. That's the great things about our coaches. Their priority is to get us out of here and move to an affiliated team. That's what drives the players in this league. It's to move on and continue playing. That's why you see a lot of hungry guys in this league."
First Published August 2, 2012 4:00 AM