Ryan Spilborghs didn't think it would take him 18 years to finish his bachelor's degree in sociology from UC Santa Barbara. A stellar outfielder for the Gauchos who went on to spend seven years with the Colorado Rockies, he left campus a few credits shy of his graduation requirements.
It's not like he dropped the ball. His contract with the Rockies included a provision that paid for his remaining college work. He even took courses from the University of Colorado at Boulder after his first season.
"I was really close, and then I realized I was missing a prerequisite, which was a Spanish course," said Spilborghs, a Santa Barbara native.
For a guy whose mother was from Guatemala and who speaks passable Spanish, it should've been no big deal. Baseball and life had other ideas. He couldn't take classes during the season and had a hard time finding courses that fit his schedule.
"So I was kind of between a rock and a hard place trying to get it done," Spilborghs said. "It was really frustrating. And so I ended up taking a year of online Spanish — I won't give away the online school — but it didn't transfer to UCSB."
Ultimately, the Denver resident looked home, and took a year of online Spanish classes through Santa Barbara City College, which literally specializes in courses that satisfy credit requirements at UCSB.
"After 21 years I finally graduated from UC Santa Barbara — from my hometown," he said.
Crossing the finish line at UCSB was so satisfying he enrolled in an online MBA program through the University of Denver. What he'll do with it is an open question, Spilborghs said. He currently works in broadcasting for the Rockies and co-hosts the "Loud Outs" program on SiriusXM.
"Honestly, at this point, I'm not sure what I will use it for," he said. "I think it's OK to not have a plan, you know, like I don't have to have a destination yet; I'm enjoying the journey. So I'll figure out what that means down the road. But right now I'm totally comfortable with just taking the course and seeing where it goes."
It's been quite an adventure for Spilborghs since leaving UCSB. In addition to playing for the Rockies, he did multiple seasons in the minors, played in Mexican winter leagues and finished his career with the Saitama Seibu Lions of Japan's Pacific League.
He was 33 when he walked away from the game. He had a wife and two kids, and it was time to put them first.
When you become a professional baseball player, he said, "your job is to be away from your family. It is to miss out on birthdays and anniversaries. Those are the costs of doing the job, which I love, but that takes a toll and you have to pay for it at some point.
"I noticed that my relationship with my wife and my kids towards the end of my baseball career was really starting to suffer," Spilborghs continued. "It made a lot more sense to step away from the game and focus on being a decent husband and a decent parent. At some point you've got to know when to say when, and what matters most. And so I picked family over baseball."
The Gregg and Carol Wilson Swimming Enhancement Fund
Legendary swimming coach Gregg Wilson (entering his 40th year at UC Santa Barbara) announced his retirement from head coaching in October 2015. Wilson embarked on his Gaucho journey in 1975-76 when he assumed the reins of the men's program. In 1985, after spending one year at his alma mater Cal, he took control of the women's program as well. What followed was a period of unprecedented success for both programs.
He coached his UCSB men's team to the Big West Conference title in 1979, beginning a run of 23 consecutive championships for the Gauchos, all but one coming with him at the helm of the program. In 1985, Wilson coached the women's team to the first of 13 championships over a 25-year stretch, giving him 36 total Big West titles. In his illustrious career, he was named Big West Coach of the Year 27 times and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Coach of the Year twice. On the national level, Wilson guided 72 swimmers to All-American status, while on the international stage he coached three Olympians with Team USA, including gold medalists Richard Schroeder and Jason Lezak.
Much more difficult to measure than the All-Americans, conference titles and coach of the year honors are the scores of athletes that were influenced by Wilson during his four decades in coaching.
Established in 2015 by the UCSB Athletics Department, the Gregg and Carol Wilson Swimming Enhancement Fund affirms the strong tradition of excellence that the Wilson's have provided to the swim programs. This fund, used at the discretion of the Swimming Head Coach and the Athletic Director, supports the men's and women's teams in its primary mission of developing student athletes who are committed to academic excellence in the classroom, sportsmanship and success in the pool, and service to the community.
The fund assists the teams by helping to:
Provide supplimential support to the operational budgets.
Sustain the presence of an NCAA Division I Swimming Program at UCSB.
Recruit the most promising student-athletes through scholarships.
To contribute to this fund:
Pay online: visit gauchofund.com and select "Donate Now" at the top of the page and select The Gregg and Carol Wilson Swimming Enhancement Fund.
Respond by mail: make your check payable to the UC Regents, specifying the Gregg and Carol Wilson Swimming Enhancement Fund and return to:
The Gaucho Fund
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5200
Pay by phone: call the Gaucho Fund Office at 805-893-5372.
For more information on this giving opportunity, contact: