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Former UTA baseball star earns bachelor’s degree

Friday, December 14, 2018 • Media Contact: Herb Booth

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Chris Gay knows perseverance.

After leaving The University of Texas at Arlington in 1992 to pursue a Major League Baseball career, Chris Gay is back on campus to cross the stage in December with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Chris Gay family

Chris Gay, middle, graduated from UTA this week with a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies. The former UTA baseball star is with his family, from left: son, Christopher; wife, Kim; Chris; daughter, Kaitlyn; and daughter, Kristen.

He owes it all to a UTA kinesiology professor and his daughter, who will graduate in the spring with a kinesiology degree.

Barry McKeown, a kinesiology professor who came to UTA in 1983, had Gay’s daughter, Kristen, in his class. She told McKeown that her dad, Chris, played baseball at UTA.

After thinking about it a few seconds, McKeown asked if her dad was Chris Gay, who he had in his class about 25 years earlier. When Kristen said yes, the UTA professor did a little homework and discovered Chris needed only 28 hours to graduate.

“I made it one of my goals in life to see that Chris graduated,” said McKeown, who attended Chris’ commencement ceremony Friday.

Gay said he would have never pursued the degree if it weren’t for McKeown and his three kids, including Kristen.

“You see, I always told them how valuable a college degree is,” Gay said. “Not having one was a tad bit hypocritical.”

So after being an all-star pitcher at UTA and toiling in the minor leagues, Gay decided to come back to Arlington to start Cover All Bases, an indoor baseball practice facility, where he could coach and mentor youths, college players and Major League hopefuls.

Cover All Bases recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. One of Cover All Bases most celebrated clients was Hunter Pence, a former UTA baseball player and outfielder for the San Francisco Giants when that team won the World Series. Pence calls Gay the most influential coach in his lifetime.

“I was married, had the business, had three kids. It was too late for me,” Gay said.

But it wasn’t.

Completing the UTA degree and pursuing a pro baseball career were only minor challenges, comparatively – Gay also is a cancer survivor.

Diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma three years ago, Chris had a medical journal magazine article done on the surgery he underwent.

“Basically, they told me that anyone with this cancer has a limb amputated. Mine was in my leg,” said Gay, whose special surgery saved the leg. “Cancer changes you internally. You can either be all doom and glow, or rosy and learn from it. I’ve always been a positive guy and that’s the way I approached it.”

He started his journey back to campus two years ago after McKeown’s encounter with Kristen.

In addition to his daughter, Chris’ wife, Kim, received a UTA social work degree and his son, Christopher, is a College of Business junior at the University. The third child, Kaitlyn, is a junior volleyball player at Mansfield High School.

See a video of Chris Gay’s story here. See Chris Gay walk across the stage here.