While growing up in Methuen, Nicholas Conway had two aspirations; playing professional baseball and becoming a police officer.
At 28, he has achieved both.
Conway was a pitcher on the University of Massachusetts Boston baseball team for four years. He graduated in 2008 with a degree in criminal justice.
He went on to play with the Worcester Tornadoes, a professional baseball team in the Canadian-American league, which disbanded in 2012.
The academy opened in February in response to the need for local police training, said George Moriarty of Northern Essex.
“Police chiefs in the Merrimack Valley were experiencing delays and difficulties getting recruits into training,” he said, adding that most departments first hire the recruits and then put them through a program. “And the locations were inconvenient.”
The academy is managed by Northern Essex and the Methuen Police Department, with an advisory board of local police chiefs. It’s authorized by the Municipal Police Training Committee.
It’s an intensive 21-week program that covers constitutional law, prevention and intervention, community policing, domestic violence, elder abuse, victims’ rights, firearms training, and emergency driving techniques, among other topics.
Conway was one of 45 recruits who recently graduated as the academy’s first class. He received the Outstanding Student Officer Award.
“It was extremely tough,” Conway said. “In about five months you’re doing the equivalent of an associate’s degree academically, and there’s the other training. It’s a full-time job, eight hours a day.”
And, he said, “It was the hardest physical training I’ve ever done; an unbelievable amount of exercise and running. I’m in the best shape of my life.’’
In addition to the skills he honed, Conway said he made lifelong friends among the men and women in the class. “That’s definitely something to take with you.”
He also was officially hired by the Methuen Police Department. “It took time to get on the job, and I can’t be more thankful,” Conway said. “I’m excited to get out there and start working.”