Higher learning

Chris Shaw | Evergreen Baseball reporter

In a group of student-athletes, Cougar senior catcher Collin Slaybaugh truly is a student first. Slaybaugh was homeschooled up until high school by choice, and he finished his degree at WSU because of the head start he got once he reached high school. 

“It got me to focus more on what I wanted to do,” Slaybaugh said. “I feel like I enjoyed learning, and I enjoy learning more now because of it because I wasn’t forced to do quite as much as I would have in the public school system.” 

His mom, Jo Anne, said she started homeschooling Slaybaugh when he was 2 years old and taught him basic subjects so that he would be able to go to public school if he wanted. Jo Anne said her teaching method was more interest driven, so that her son could study what he liked most. 

Every year, Slaybaugh said his parents would ask him if he wanted to continue homeschooling or go to public school. His mother said that every year he said he wanted to continue learning at home. 

“I liked being able to sleep in, wake up in my pajamas, and do my homework, and just figure out what I wanted to do,” Slaybaugh said. 

Well, almost every year Slaybaugh said that. When he was about the age of a second grader, Jo Anne said Collin told her he wanted to go to public school because he wanted to ride a school bus. She took him to Zoo Lights so that he could ride a school bus during that, and then she asked him again if he still wanted to go to public school. 

Apparently he really did just want to ride a school bus because Jo Anne said Slaybaugh wanted to get homeschooled still. 

The senior catcher’s will to learn did not stop when he got to high school. He stopped getting homeschooled, but he decided to get his associate degree while he was in high school by going through the Running Start program, which gave him 60 college credits before he reached WSU. 

Now, Slaybaugh has graduated with a degree in kinesiology, but he is taking some more classes while he finishes his senior season on the baseball team. 

Slaybaugh’s dream, like many ballplayers, is to play professional baseball on any team that will take him. He did not get drafted last year but plans to try to make the big leagues after he finishes his career with the Cougars. 

If that doesn’t pan out, Slaybaugh wants to go into physical therapy. 

It is no secret that Slaybaugh excels both in baseball and in the classroom. 

“He likes to learn, and he likes to do things even though it comes easy for him,” Head Coach Donnie Marbut said. “Everything comes easy for him when it comes to the books. There’s nothing that’s hard for him, so I think he likes to challenge himself.”

Marbut added that it is almost scary how bright Slaybaugh is. 

During his time with the Cougars, Slaybaugh has grown into the player he is today by steadily learning his role on the team.

“Most recently, I think he’s starting to accept the type of player he is and some of the things he has to do to be successful,” Marbut said. “He’s a really unique player because he hits left-handed as a catcher, he can run, he’s athletic. He can play outfield as well. He’s a two-hitter that can really bunt. There’s not a lot of catchers out here that are like him.”

Slaybaugh started catching when he was 8 years old after his older cousin gave him his first set of catcher’s gear. From then on, he played behind the plate along with other positions, such as pitcher and outfield. 

Professional catcher and former Mariner Dan Wilson was someone who Slaybaugh admired growing up. Wilson played on the 1995 team that defeated the New York Yankees in the League Division Series, and Slaybaugh said that season got him into baseball. Slaybaugh said he liked how hard Wilson worked and his good connection with the pitching staff. 

Jo Anne, Slaybaugh’s mother, recalled that in 1995, when her son was about three years old, he ran into the house from playing outdoors. On this particular day, Jo Anne had the Mariners game on and when Slaybaugh noticed it, he stopped and just stared at the TV. 

From that day on, Slaybaugh would not wear the clothes his mom had bought for him already. He simply wanted to wear Mariners clothes. The following year, Slaybaugh started playing baseball and he stuck with it. 

He wrestled when he was younger, but by the time he got to Emerald Ridge High School, he was strictly playing baseball. He caught the attention of the coaching staff at Washington State, which was fitting because both his parents and his aunt went to WSU. 

Slaybaugh said he loves the atmosphere here in Pullman. 

“It’s completely different than anywhere else being around the Cougs,” Slaybaugh said. “The whole community is involved in WSU and wants to see you succeed. I go into random classes and hear, ‘Oh, do you play for WSU?’ I say yeah, and it’s something that fills you with pride to play for the Cougs.”

Slaybaugh’s book smarts could lead him to a future in physical therapy. His baseball ability could steer him toward a career in the big leagues. Either way, Slaybaugh has one more season with the Cougars to let his pride for the school shine brightly.