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During his time at Yale, 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis was an outfielder for the university's baseball team (Matt Johnson | CC BY 2.0). Credit: Picasa

Long before Ron DeSantis was a candidate in the 2024 presidential election, he was an Ivy League student athlete, donning Yale blue as captain of the Bulldogs’ baseball team. Let’s take a look back at DeSantis’s time in the Ancient Eight, including how the Bulldogs fared against Penn during his career.

After a youth career that included a trip to the Little League World Series, DeSantis joined the Bulldogs in 1998 as an outfielder. He saw immediate action in Yale’s lineup, racking up 39 hits over the course of 41 games during his freshman season. DeSantis did most of his damage at the plate that year, helping Yale to a winning record in the Ivy League that included a two-game sweep of Penn.

“I've always been a pretty good hitter and found it pretty natural," DeSantis told the Tampa Bay Times in 2001. "As an outfielder, you basically need to just cover your territory. That's different from playing the infield."

Over the course of his sophomore and junior seasons in 1999 and 2000, the current Florida governor’s production improved, but the Bulldogs as a team began to struggle.

DeSantis collected 77 hits during years two and three with the Bulldogs, and notched an impressive on-base percentage of .380. Arguably his best college season came during his junior year, when he set career highs in hits with 44, home runs at five, and with 28 RBIs. 

However, the Bulldogs became cellar dwellers of the Ivy League, bottoming out with a 3-17 conference record in 2000. The Quakers defeated the Bulldogs in four out of their six matchups across the two years, including a sweep in the latter season.

DeSantis was selected as captain during his senior season in 2001, a decision voted on by his teammates. John Stupor, the winningest coach in Bulldogs history, coached DeSantis during his entire collegiate career, and praised him for his leadership qualities.

“Being voted by your peers says a lot of what they think of you," Stupor said in 2001. "[DeSantis] has never been afraid of hard work, and being captain is a big deal. It is time demanding and involves leading off-season workouts, disciplining within the ranks and attending some social functions.”

With DeSantis at the helm, the Bulldogs took a small step forward, but still finished last in the Ivy League with just six conference victories. Though DeSantis led the team in hits and set a new personal best in batting average with .336, he could not replicate the overall potency of his junior campaign. In DeSantis’s final matchups against the Quakers, the Red and Blue stomped the Bulldogs, winning both games, with a combined margin of 26-2.

DeSantis was a productive player and lauded leader, though Yale baseball as a whole struggled during his four years. He finished his career with 156 hits and a batting average of .313, but an Ivy League record of just 27-53, including a 4-6 clip against Penn. Nonetheless, DeSantis’s teammates held him in the highest esteem.

“He’s a great captain,” DeSantis’s teammate Kyle Cousin told the Yale Daily News in 2001. “He helps everybody out. He is a true leader on and off the field.”

After graduating from Yale, DeSantis worked as a history teacher and baseball coach in Georgia for one year before attending Harvard Law School and being commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy. Those experiences eventually led to his successful political career and current Presidential candidacy. But for one of the nation’s most well-known politicians, it all began on an Ivy League baseball diamond.