Posted: 12:23 pm Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

The value of an education: ex-Jupiter C/RHP Ronnie Healy signs with Broward College 

By Matt Porter

Ronnie Healy left high school empty-handed. Now, at least, he has an option should his pro ball dreams not come true.

Healy, a left-handed, power-hitting catcher and a right-handed relief pitcher who reaches 94 miles per hour, signed a letter of intent to Broward College on Tuesday.

Healy caught the eye of major-league scouts while playing for Jupiter High. But after falling behind in his classes, he withdrew from school in December, midway through his senior year. He now trains full-time at Elev8 Sports Institute in Delray Beach, formerly known as Bucky Dent Baseball Academy, in preparation for the June Major League Baseball draft.

Ronnie Healy practices with Elev8 Sports Institute at a Delray Beach field in February.

Ronnie Healy practices with Elev8 Sports Institute at a Delray Beach field in February.

When Healy was interviewed over the last two months by the Post for a possible story, he expressed a strong desire to skip school and turn pro “as soon as I can.”

That tune seems to have changed. In addition to being a life choice any teacher would cry over, eschewing an education would have left Healy in a compromised position at the negotiating table.

A pro adviser, who asked not to be named since he does not represent Healy, said a player without college plans will “get taken advantage of” by a big-league club.

“What makes a team think they have to offer him 100 grand, 50 grand, five grand or even a plane ticket?” the adviser said.

Healy’s adviser, Tripper Johnson of California-based baseball agency Sosnick Cobbe, did not return phone calls from the Post.

Broward head coach and athletic director Bob Deutschman said if Healy plans to join his program, he’d better find time to hit the books, not just the batting cages.

“Regardless of how far he hits it or hard he throws it, he will be expected to bring head, heart and mind into his academics,” Deutschman said.

So where did Healy go, anyway? Bucky Dent’s Baseball School, operating in Delray Beach since 1986, in August 2011 opened a full-time sports and academic training academy for high school-age players. Dent, the former New York Yankees all-star, left the operation two months after the academy opened.

It later rebranded as Elev8 Sports Institute with a multi-sport mission similar to IMG Academy in Bradenton. While IMG is a 450-acre Taj Mahal for sports training, Elev8 plays on city-owned baseball fields and operates from a few modest, two-story buildings on 3.2 acres adjacent to Miller Park.

Six days a week, Healy commutes from his Jupiter Farms home to train with his new teammates, some of whom are local players who didn’t earn starting roles on their high school team.

Elev8, which costs around $40,000 for a boarding student, schedules 50 to 60 games each spring against junior colleges, small colleges and high schools. As of Tuesday, the team is 27-7 with four losses to Miami Dade College, the top-ranked junior college in the state and No. 3 in the country.

Jupiter began the season an area-best 13-1 and is ranked 16th in the nation among high schools by MaxPreps. Coach Andy Mook said he was stunned at first, but now supports Healy’s decision to leave.

“He’s a good kid,” Mook said. “I hope he succeeds.”

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