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Two Decades (And A Major League Baseball Career!) Later, South Coast College Student Gets Degree


Coronavirus crisis or not, this is a special time for tens of thousands of high school and college graduates on the Central and South Coasts.

But, one new UC Santa Barbara graduate has a very unusual story spanning two decades.  He didn’t get his degree because of a glitch, and was then sidetracked because of his career as a Major League baseball player. 

He grew up in Santa Barbara.  He became a baseball star at UC Santa Barbara.  He went on to become a major league baseball player.  But something got lost along the way.  Even though he had more than enough units to graduate, due to a glitch he didn’t.  Now, in 2020, 18 years later, Ryan Spilborghs is finally a proud UCSB graduate.

Spilborghs says finishing his education was so important to him that when he signed a contract with the Colorado Rockies, his contract included a clause that the team would pay for him to finish his education.

In 2002, he thought he was set, with more than enough units to graduate.  But, there was an issue with a Spanish class.  Even though he took part in the graduation ceremony, it turned out that technically he didn't gradaute.

He clicked with the Rockies.  The outfielder played seven seasons.  But, Spilborgh, or “Spilly” as he is known to fans, never forgot about getting the Spanish requirement completed to get his sociology degree from UCSB.  When he was player, it was hard, because he was on the road during the fall and spring semesters. 

Then he had some false starts.  He tried to complete the requirement through Santa Barbara city College, but it didn't work.  Then, he spent thousands of dollars doing an online class, only to find out UCSB wouldn't accept the units.  Finally, he returned to SBCC, and got the Spanish units he needed to graduate.

Spilborghs is still living in Denver with his wife and children, and is part of the Colorado Rockies broadcast team.  He’s also continuing his education , and is in an MBA program.

The UCSB grad says he’s persistent, and feels like graduating completes a promise to himself, and his family.  His parents were both immigrants, so it was important to them that he and his sister would become college graduates,  His mother passed away several years ago, but he thinks she would be proud that he followed through and finished earning his degree.

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