February 14, 2024

Wayne State pitcher hopes to inspire the city's next generation of major league hopefuls

College to Career
David Thurman headshot
David Thurman

DETROIT – As David Thurman prepares for his final collegiate baseball season at Wayne State University, he’s already thinking about the future. As much as the senior right-handed relief pitcher would love to graduate to pro ball, he knows the odds are against him.

“Maybe if I have a velo jump I can actually get drafted,” said Thurman, referencing the velocity of his fastball that touches 86 m.p.h. “If I get my velocity where I want it to be consistently and my body’s right, I’m going to see if I can play somewhere.”

Thurman, who will graduate this year with a degree in management from the Mike Ilitch School of Business, hopes the Warriors can repeat as Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) regular-season and tournament champions.

The Warriors will open the 2024 season this weekend with a four-game series against Hillsdale College at Ting Stadium in Holly Springs, North Carolina, on Friday, Feb. 16.

However, if this season is the final stop in Thurman’s baseball playing journey, he’s ready to inspire Detroit’s next generation of major league hopefuls.

“One of our assistant coaches is involved right now with the RBI Program,” he said. “I grew up in RBI and I want to see if I can be a part of giving back. I feel like that was very important to my development.”

RBI, which stands for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, is Major League Baseball’s youth initiative that provides playing opportunities for young people in underserved communities. WSU assistant coach Matthew Williams, director of player development, also serves as the Detroit Tigers’ community impact team manager, overseeing the organization’s three youth divisions, including the RBI Program.

As far as a career, Thurman wants to remain in sports in some capacity. But first, he plans to earn an M.B.A. from the Ilitch School.

“I don't know how far I’m playing, but I’m definitely going to stick around in baseball doing something,” said Thurman, who was twice named to the GLIAC All-Academic team. “It’s taken me this far and it’s going to take me further whether I’m playing or not.”

Whichever sports business career he chooses, Thurman said he is very appreciative for an education made possible by Wayne State’s Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge, which offers free tuition for undergraduate students from Detroit high schools and Detroit residents. Almost 1,500 students are currently enrolled in the program, providing zero out-of-pocket tuition expenses for up to four years of full-time study to earn a bachelor’s.

A graduate of Detroit Edison High School, David Thurman heads into the 2024 season as Wayne State’s active leader in career games pitched (39), relief appearances (39) and saves (2).
A graduate of Detroit Edison High School, David Thurman heads into the 2024 season as Wayne State’s active leader in career games pitched (39), relief appearances (39) and saves (2).

“I received a tuition scholarship because I attended a Detroit school,” Thurman said. “Wayne State was also my best option, baseball-wise. It’s close to home and it’s been a perfect fit.”

As the only player on Wayne State’s 34-man roster with experience in Detroit youth baseball, Thurman said he feels an obligation to give back. Inspired by two of his mentors – Woodbridge Baseball Academy co-founder Mike Wilson and Detroit Edison and RBI coach Mark Brown Sr. – he wants to help the city’s stars of tomorrow.

“I’m a product of those things,” said Thurman, who, along with outfielder Jacoby Dale, are the only Black players on Wayne State’s team. “I’m a product of the little leagues in Southfield and I'm product of teams in Detroit, and for kids in the inner city, that’s authentic as it gets.”

Thurman, who has a 4.18 ERA in 39 career appearances with WSU, said playing for the RBI Program was like playing on an all-star team.

He’s not wrong. Thurman and his RBI teammates qualified for the RBI World Series in 2018 and 2019. Some of his RBI teammates still play collegiately at Grambling State University, Indiana University-South Bend, Oakland University, Prairie View A&M University, University of Dayton, University of Michigan and Western Michigan University.

“It was a great experience,” Thurman said. “I played against the team that had Mo’ne Davis, and other teams from around the country. It was a weeklong experience of just talking to pro players, and we got to hear from Jackie Robinson’s daughter. Just a lot of valuable things came out of that program and good connections.”

But now that there are more sports options, it seems that “America’s Pastime” has become less and less of an option for African Americans. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at Central Florida University recently published a report that found Black players accounted for just 6.2% of the Major League Baseball rosters on opening day 2023, a decline from a record low of 7.2% set in 2021.

Thurman knows why this is.

“There’s a lot of good Black kids playing ball in the city,” he said. “I played in the city. I played for the Detroit RBI Program, I played for Detroit Edison and I played for Woodbridge, which are all in Midtown Detroit. I played around here. I've seen guys, they do play in the city. Black kids do play baseball. But I don’t think it’s really the lack of them not playing or not liking the sport. It’s the lack of resources. There’s not that many programs that have opportunities for inner city Black players.”


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Bill Roose
Phone: 313-577-5699
Email: bill.roose@wayne.edu
Jeff Weiss
Phone: (313) 577-7542
Email: jeff.weiss@wayne.edu

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