Junior pitcher Tommy Sommer, 21, approaches the game of baseball with a philosophy of level-headedness and hard work.
Sommer said he always tries to be one step ahead of everyone else on the field. Baseball is a mental game for him, which is what he loves about the sport.
“Baseball is more cerebral, kind of a chess match where you’re trying to think two steps ahead,” Sommer said.
A hard work ethic is another foundation of Sommer’s technique as an athlete. This mentality was instilled in him by his dad and his story.
Sommer’s dad, Juergen, walked onto the IU men’s soccer team as a freshman in 1987. He received the starting goalkeeper position and went on to win a national championship with the 1988 Hoosier team the next year. He then worked toward professional success, becoming the first American goalkeeper to play in the Premier League.
“That story of being a walk on and having absolutely nothing and just fighting your way to the top and being successful is something that he’s definitely instilled in me coming here,” Sommer said.
Sommer said his dad’s legacy in the soccer program at IU is important to him. It’s part of the reason he decided to attend the university.
“It’s exciting for me now that I get to come here and kind of follow in his footsteps in a little different way, but still have that tradition of being an IU student like my dad,” Sommer said. “I take a great responsibility because of what success he had here and definitely try to replicate everything that he’s done.”
Sommer’s dad is also the reason he decided to play baseball. Growing up, Sommer played baseball, basketball and soccer, but around his freshman year of high school, his dad realized he felt more of a connection with baseball than the other sports.
“He let me pursue baseball more than soccer or basketball,” Sommer said. “I really appreciate that because it was definitely a turning point in my life, just finding something I was really passionate about.”
Sommer said his dad’s encouragement allowed him to give up soccer, a sport he felt he had a responsibility to continue because of his dad's legacy. He said his dad is his role model in everything he does and has taught him how to act as an athlete at IU.
Sommer’s belief in the power of hard work is part of a culture head coach Jeff Mercer is working to instill in the baseball program.
“There’s going to be an expectation to continue to improve,” Mercer said.
Sommer said he has stepped into a leadership role this year to help younger players understand and adjust to the expectations the team has for them. He said he wanted to give younger team members the guidance he wished he had as a freshman.
Mercer said Sommer is one of the upperclassmen who has helped freshmen assimilate to the culture of the team.
“They understand the expectation but they also understand what it’s like coming in and being a new guy and really welcoming these guys in,” Mercer said.