Editor’s note: Matt Manship, ’06, grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and pitched for the Stanford baseball team for four seasons, earning a trip to the College World Series in 2003. He graduated from Stanford with a B.A. in economics. Manship went to work for Cisco Systems as a project manager until the summer of 2008, when he attended Officer Candidate School for the Navy and graduated No. 1 in his class. Now a lieutenant, he flies F/A-18F Super Hornets. Manship lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with his wife, Courtney, and their three young sons, Bennett, Lex, and Philip.
By Lt. Matt Manship
Looking back, there are two pivotal moments in my life that set the foundation of my current path. Those two moments were September 11, 2001, and the day I took my first visit to Stanford and California, which occurred only a few weeks later. Growing up in Texas, most people see no reason to ever leave, but I had possessed the bug to branch out since I was a young boy. As soon as I met Coach Mark Marquess of Stanford baseball at the San Jose airport, I immediately felt I was in the right place. Driving north on the 280 was eye opening. The beautiful combination of hills, trees, and sun all intertwined in an urban environment was like nothing I had ever seen before. Then we made the descent onto campus . . .
Some people say that their college years had more of an impact than any other time in their life. I couldn’t agree more. Not to discount the incredible impact my parents made and still make to this day, but the Stanford experience creates an environment where the student finds untapped self-confidence, tenacity, and discipline they never knew they had. From day one of baseball practice, Coach Marquess had me run like I’ve never run and kept my head on a swivel. He is, arguably, the greatest motivator in collegiate athletics due to his personality and style. Not only was he concerned with our success on the field, but off the field as well. He told us early on that he could count only a few of his former players who had made their entire living in athletics, hammering home the importance of not putting all of your eggs in one basket. The Stanford student-athlete has the difficult task of compartmentalizing daily between athletics and academics. This is expected out of both the students themselves and the faculty, a rare find in college athletics today. Thanks to the contributions of the Buck/Cardinal Club, many of us were provided tutors to ensure we succeeded during the season, an especially difficult time to multitask. I am still friends with one of my tutors to this day!
Stanford is often referred to as a “bubble.” While this is somewhat true, it is the most diverse bubble I’ve ever seen. I met the most interesting people from all corners of the world with viewpoints and dreams I would have otherwise never been exposed to. Dreams as grand as solving the many ailments of this world, whether medical or economic, to name a couple, were not uncommon. Stanford students are so gifted and driven that some of these dreams become reality! This tenacity inspires others around them, myself included, to pursue endeavors they would have never thought possible. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn and grow alongside other Stanford students.
I had a very strong desire to serve in the post 9-11 world and the determination I learned at Stanford gave me the courage to dive into the unknown. I had entertained the thought of the military around my graduation but the desire did not peak until two years after graduation. I had a fantastic job at Cisco Systems and lived with another former Stanford ballplayer, Jeff Gilmore, in San Francisco. There was seemingly no good reason to leave the good life behind, but I could not subdue the desire I had felt since my senior year to contribute to one of my generation’s greatest issues. Since Coach Marquess built his program around discipline, respect, and hard work, I felt I had a shot at making the huge transition. As I mentioned before, the Stanford students around me had inspired me for years with their lofty pursuits. I made my own pursuit almost six years ago to become a Naval Aviator and now I write this from my stateroom aboard the USS George H.W. Bush halfway around the world. I am proud to represent the Stanford Cardinal from several thousand feet above Afghanistan!Many thanks to all the donors, especially members of the Buck/Cardinal Club, without whom Stanford students and athletes would not have the facilities and tools to ensure we succeed. I can say with certainty that we never wanted or needed because all our needs were met and then some! We all owe a great deal to our supporters. I hope to return one day soon to meet some of the current student-athletes and live vicariously through them as they also prepare to endeavor into the unknown. My visit would not be complete without checking out a baseball game or practice, sitting high in the stands at the Sunken Diamond on the third base line taking in the view, and hearing Coach Marquess shout at the players to “Stride it!” Go Cardinal!