Playing since the age of three, senior Joe Vondrachek came to the University of Dallas with great expectations for the furthering of his faith, his education and his career in baseball. Vondrachek has chosen to surpass the expectations by balancing baseball, a philosophy major, a business minor and extra-curriculars. By achieving the Student-Athlete Academic Honor Roll in 2018, 2019 and 2020 and leading his team in hits, stolen bases and runs scored during the spring 2020 season, Vondrachek has demonstrated his well-roundedness.
Growing up in St. Paul, Minn., Vondrachek developed his skill as a dedicated athlete through the years, dabbling in both hockey and basketball, before settling on baseball. He currently plays middle infield, mainly shortstop.
Vondrachek originally found UD on the Newman guide. After doing some research, visiting the school, spending a night on campus, experiencing TGIT, learning about the academics at UD and the baseball team’s dynamic, Vondrachek found that it fit his rigid criteria.
“The level of education that you receive here, particularly as a philosophy major, is exceptional,”Vondrachek said.
Vondrachek has taken many philosophy classes at the UD, though he didn’t always know that was going to be his major.
“I’ve always been interested in philosophy, I guess my drawback was always the practicality of it, like ‘am I going to get a job with a philosophy major,’” Vondrachek said. Vondrachek’s sophomore roommate Max Costello, a philosophy major baseball teammate, first interested Vondrachek in the major.
In talking to various professors and especially Dr. Chad Engelland, the philosophy department chair, Vondrachek began to see it as a very practical major.
“It teaches you to, first of all, read and write really well, but it also teaches you to think critically,” he explained.
The challenge of balancing school and sports is one that plagues every student-athlete, especially at the collegiate level, but Vondrachek’s three-time Academic Honor Roll accolades prove that he puts in the time and effort to overcome that challenge.
“You have to manage your time well, because school at UD isn’t easy. You have to stay on top of it, and then athletics are demanding, especially if you want to be great.”
In addition to his athletic and academic achievements, Vondrachek takes an active role in campus activities, this year as president of the Phi Sigma Tau International Society of Philosophy and continuing involvement with the Society of Saint Joseph.
Vondrachek expressed extreme disappointment in the cancellation of the baseball season due to COVID-19, explaining that there was barely time to process the changes. Vondrachek credited Coach Erik Grafton with improving the team’s quality. With excitement for the upcoming season, Vondrachek cited the rising prospects of winning a conference tournament and the talent and commitment from the young recruits to the team.
When asked about his success in leading the team, being lettered and receiving honor roll, Vondrachek humbly turned the focus back towards his team, recognizing both the coaches and players as his foundation for any achievements bestowed on him.
“I think it just comes down to who you’re surrounded with, like teammates that push you to be better and that you can push to be better,” Vondrachek said. “Any success can be attributed to their support for sure.”
A common thread throughout Vondraceck’s life decisions, even including the choice to come to UD, has certainly been driven by his strong Catholic faith. In a text following the interview, it was unsurprising to see Vondrachek making sure to qualify that his success was not only bolstered by his team, but that any achievements in his life were only by the grace of God.
Vondrachek is a strong example of a well-rounded man at UD who has been instilled with a profound sense of commitment and community. Hopefully, the spring baseball season will be allowed to proceed as planned, and Vondrachek can continue to develop and grow as well as lead those around him to higher, greater things.