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Stepping up to the plate

Dec 1, 2016
by Brian Thompson, '95

Ask Flagler pitcher Michael Maiocco the secret to juggling his many interests and passions — whether it’s stepping up to the mound, carrying a 4.0 in his demanding Graphic Design degree, creating art or working as a missionary — and his answer sounds more like a self-help expert than an athlete: it’s all about time management.

“It’s hard,” he said. “Flagler is one of the best art schools, and the kids I’m in class with are incredible artists, so to be able to excel among them in such a good school with that specific program, and on top of that playing a sport, is super challenging.”

But it’s a challenge he loves and that he was rewarded for this past spring when he became only the third Flagler athlete to be named an NCAA Academic All-American.  

“To be awarded for something like that is an absolute honor,” he said.

For Maiocco, who played summer baseball for the Florence Red Wolves in one of the country’s top collegiate baseball summer leagues, it’s all part of his larger philosophy and work ethic: that anything done should be done well.

“I’m used to getting back at 2 a.m. from a road trip and I have class the next morning where I had to do a design project on the bus with my laptop crammed in the seat,” he said. “It really teaches you time management.”

It’s about challenging himself each day and doing everything at the highest level possible.   

The senior from Atlanta, Ga., is hoping that hard work pays off as he tries to fulfill his dream of turning pro after graduating from Flagler next spring.

“Playing professional baseball has been a dream ever since I can remember,” he said. “I never wanted to be anything but a professional baseball player. It’s really crazy to be so close to it, but I’m not trying to get ahead of myself.”

This was his second stint playing in the summer Coastal Plain League, which is for players with an eye on professional careers and regularly attracts Major League Baseball scouts.

Deeply religious, Maiocco said while he is working hard to fulfill that dream, he is also taking an “if it is meant to happen it will happen” approach. For him the game is also an opportunity to use it as a way of focusing on more important things. “There’s more to life than just me,” he said, “and with this platform, I have to do it for something bigger than me.”

It’s an outlook that he began developing after a trip as a 14-year-old to play baseball in the Dominican Republic. He met a missionary who helped him put the sport into perspective — that it was a small piece of a much larger picture.

Ever since, he has become as passionate about mission work and helping others as he is about baseball, and now works with a local church ministering on campus.

Maiocco didn’t begin his baseball career at Flagler, but rather transferred in his sophomore year from Southern Polytechnic State University, which folded its baseball program after merging with Kennesaw State University. While he was trying to decide where to go next, Flagler reached out to him while looking for a left-handed pitcher. It was perfect timing.

At Flagler, he has excelled on the mound. In his 2016 junior season, he posted a 7-1 record with a 4.13 ERA, struck out 90 batters in just 69.2 innings pitched and only allowed 65 hits. He struck out a season-high 15 batters against Albany State in March — one strike out away from tying a school record.

But he has been recognized as much for his off-the-mound work at Flagler as his pitching.

The Graphic Design major held a 4.0 grade point average when he was named an Academic All-American in 2016 — only the third time a Flagler player has achieved the honor since the school moved to the NCAA in 2008.

While Maiocco’s major might be Graphic Design, his heart has always been in fine art — doing portraits, paintings, mixed media and something he describes as “stage art.” He often stands in front of large audiences with a blank canvas and a paint palette, coming up with an idea on the spot and letting all watch his creative process. In one such event, he auctioned off the painting for a couple thousand dollars to benefit missionary work.

What’s next for Maiocco? He says he isn’t entirely sure, but doesn’t seem to be stressing over it too much. He will finish up at Flagler this spring. He will play out his senior season and continue working with a St. Augustine church. And he will keep doing graphic design and art.

“Whether it’s baseball, whether it’s art, whether it’s becoming a pastor or missionary work, all of those things sound incredible to me,” he said. “I feel incredibly blessed to have this trajectory in life.”

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