Hammond School students and staffers were treated to a surprise guest speaker Friday morning.
Just over 900 students at the private school in Columbias Old Woodlands neighborhood heard from none other than USC pitcher Michael Roth. And by the looks on the star-struck faces of even the youngest of fans, Roths reputation with the two-time national championship team preceded him.
Michael! Michael Roth, gasped children as young as 8 as the former All-American lefthander high-fived his way through the crowd while Sandstorm blasted from speakers.
It was a heady moment even by professional speaking engagement standards let alone for a school assembly, but Roth seemed to take it all in stride.
That was a fun group, he said afterward.
Roth, who graduated from USC with a 3.83 GPA in international business, talked about the importance of balancing athletics or other activities with academics while addressing students from Hammonds lower and upper schools during three school assemblies Friday morning.
What in your life do you want to come first? he asked students. You have to set your priorities.
Paid for by an anonymous school supporter, the Hammond appearance was the first South Carolina speaking engagement for Roth since the Greer native finished up the season with the Orem (Utah) Owlz, the Los Angeles Angels rookie-level team in the Pioneer League.
Its also one of the first appearances he has made as a professional motivational speaker since launching his own firm, Michael T. Roth Enterprises, earlier this fall. He gave another presentation recently in front of business executives in Portland, Ore.
While Fridays engagement with school children was somewhat different than pumping up sales professionals, Roth had all the hallmarks of a seasoned professional. He was candid, engaging, self-deprecating at times, inspirational at others.
Upper school students Alexander Daniels and Ann Taylor, who ushered Roth around campus Friday, said they thought Roth did a good job covering a number of themes.
Especially trying to show these little kids the importance of being on a team and doing the best you can and having your dreams, Daniels said.
In addition, Roth seemed to have that one thing almost all great speakers possess the ability to stay in the moment.
People want to hear someone speak, not lecture to them, he said. So I try to have some fun up there. Thats a big part of my life anyway.
Being passionate about your subject matter also helps, he said. And it shows.
Speaking to groups, both large and small, is something Roth, who already had given a number of talks to area schools and community groups while a student at USC, says hes usually comfortable with.
I remember in school there were some speeches I was nervous to give, he said. And I still get nervous. I still get nervous about (playing) baseball. But its how you turn those nerves into successes.
And just like the theme of his talk, Roth admits balancing life as a professional baseball player with his newfound trade as motivational speaker may prove to be a little tricky especially when he heads back to the West Coast in February to rejoin the Owlz. But its one challenge hes up to.
Im enjoying it, he said. Ill work some breakfast or lunch appearances in while Im out there, but right now Im focused on the next six months.
Reach Lucas at (803) 771-8657.