From the MLB to UF’s campus, Givens gives his all
By Brandon Emsweller
Hanging above his chair is a memorable moment for the former Detroit Tigers shortstop: a double play he finished off that is pieced together by separate snapshots of the play.
Now the former Tigers shortstop is the Associate Athletic Director for Development and Business at the University of Findlay. Jim Givens is a well-known name around the Findlay area based on his accomplishments and his job at UF.
Brandi Laurita, the Athletic Director at UF, thinks that his career in the majors created something special for the city he cares about.
“Being born and raised in Findlay, Jim knows just about everyone in town. He is a friendly face that welcomes all he encounters and he truly loves Findlay. I think this makes Jim unique because even after success at the Major League level he returned to his hometown to make a home for his family,” said Laurita.
Givens was born in Chardon, OH. When he was just a year old, he and his family moved to Findlay after his dad accepted a new job.
“My dad was a school teacher at Findlay City Schools for 36 years. He coached basketball, football, and track,” said Givens. “I basically lived in a gym and was a son of a coach.”
Givens was passionate about playing sports, but wanted to mainly play basketball at the professional level.
“Basketball was actually my passion when I played in high school, and then I wanted to play in college. I realized in a very short amount of time God did not bless me with specific attributes to allow me to perform at a high level,” said Givens.
By not having necessarily all of the skills in one sport, Givens leaned toward another one, because he still had dreams of being a professional athlete.
“I had played baseball all the way, and have loved it. I worked hard in it, and decided that baseball would be my chance. I really dedicated myself to baseball and fortunately enough I would get an offer from Kent State.” said Givens.
Givens signed with Kent State in 1986, and from his years at playing for the Golden Flashes he would ultimately get his chance to play in the majors.
“I was drafted in 1991 in the 30th round by the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers were actually one of the organizations that didn’t talk to me my junior or senior year of college,” said Givens. “I was actually offered a contract by the New York Yankees my junior year as a free agent. I did not sign, because wanted to be drafted instead.”
Givens was drafted by his favorite team, and got the chance to play in the majors in 1991.
“I played for five years in the organization. Three of those years were with the Toledo Mud Hens, and then I walked away on my own terms which was what I always wanted,” said Givens.
Being the in a professional sport takes a lot of time, and Givens tried to evaluate the situation he was in while thinking about starting a family.
“When I got into it I wanted to give myself a certain amount of time making an evaluation that at some point my family has to be important,” said Givens. “I do want to have a family, but being on the road all the time and being surrounded by guys who have had 11 or 12 minor league years, I didn’t want to do that.”
When Givens walked away from the game he was passionate about in 1995 he had second thoughts about his decision, and was even offered another chance in the majors.
“Do I regret it? Yes I do, and that is a question I get all the time. I had a contract in two days to sign with the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves, and I turned both of those down. Many times I wished I gave it try, but if that would have happened I wouldn’t be here,” said Givens.
Once Givens’ career in the majors was over in 1995 he got a phone call from the head coach of the Oilers basketball team, and from there the rest was history.
“Right after I made the decision that I was going to retire I received a call from Ron Niekamp. At that time they needed a baseball coach, and he asked me if I was interested in doing it,” said Givens.
He started in 1998 and coached for six years for the University of Findlay baseball team, and working his current position in the athletic department at the same time.
“I want to impact people’s lives with student athletes, colleagues in the office, and someone that we work with in the community,” said Givens.
Laurita started working at the University in 2008, and Givens was the first person she met. From there he has been a helpful figure through her career.
“Jim has helped me grow into the leader I am today by being honest and pushing me outside of my comfort zone,” said Laurita. “He is always there to listen and help me through any situation, good or bad. I can honestly say that my time at the University of Findlay would not be the same and would not be as enjoyable without Jim in it.”
Laurita believes Givens’ experience in the majors is useful for athletes on campus.
“Being an athlete at the highest level, Jim brings a competitiveness and drive that helps our athletes push through tough times to improve their skills and truly reach the highest level of athletic success,” said Laurita