From the ball field to the dental field

Zach Featherstone was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 2016. He began his professional career in the outfield but later transitioned to pitcher, playing five seasons for the Cedar Rapid Kernels and Wichita Wind Surge in the Twins organization. 

Seven years later, he’s stepping off the ball field and into the dental field.

Featherstone is pursuing an online biological sciences degree with an emphasis in biomedical sciences through the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, and he’s preparing to apply to dental school.

“It wasn't a thought in my mind until COVID happened,” Featherstone said. “Once the season got canceled, I was like, I got all this time on my hands, I need to do something. So I chose to do school.”

ASU Online, ranked in the top 10 for best online bachelor’s programs by U.S. News & World Report, offered Featherstone over 100 online degree programs to choose from.  

“I chose ASU because of just the wide degree ranges that they had, because I didn't know what I wanted to do initially.”

The Major and Minor League Baseball organizations have an official partnership with Northeastern University, which provides advising resources as well as 10 undergraduate and four graduate online programs that players can consider. But they didn’t offer a program that fit Featherstone’s needs.

The biological sciences program at ASU Online seemed like the right choice for beginning his journey to pursue dental medicine, especially with the growth in online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I guess the reason I chose the route that I'm doing now is because COVID kind of changed everything. Now all these schools have to accept all my online classes. So, it's not a barrier that they can say, you went to online school,” he said. “They can't say that anymore, because everybody has it on their transcript now.”

ASU Online gave Featherstone the flexibility to continue his degree while navigating the return of baseball and multiple injuries. 

“When I was playing I would do a lot of school in the mornings, and then the afternoon would be all dedicated to baseball,” he said. “When I got hurt and ended up getting surgery, then it switched. I’d do all the baseball stuff in the morning, and then I'd have all night to do school.”

One of Featherstone’s first courses in the program was organic chemistry.

“I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea,” Featherstone said. “That was after I hadn’t taken chemistry for like four years, so I had to relearn everything and do all that. I bought a bunch of those 'Chemistry for Dummies' books, and just read those when I wasn't doing stuff.”

Featherstone is currently in the seventh-inning stretch of his undergraduate studies. He’s planning to graduate in spring 2024 and is in the midst of applying to dental schools. 

He’s keeping his options open and plans to apply to 10 different programs.

“I know what (dental specialty) I might like right now, but I don't know exactly if I'm going to like it until you get into it, and you're doing it every day,” he said. 

“You may say you’d like to do oral surgery or orthodontics, but you have no idea until you are actually kind of hands-on doing stuff in school. So, I kind of want to keep my mind open with that.”

Just like when he pursued professional baseball, Featherstone is committed to succeeding in this next chapter.

“My mindset is, just go in and kill the school aspect of everything, and do really well, and let your passions guide you and what you want to do.”

Lauren Whitby