Chase a presence on, off diamond
Tommy Chase is hitting a shade below .230 for the University of Notre Dame baseball team. And nagging injuries have limited the senior middle infielder to designated hitter duties for much of the season.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Chase would like to make more of an impact on the field for the Irish, and perhaps at the plate. But his mere presence is helping the Irish to turn a losing 2011 campaign (23-29-1) into a season of hope this spring.
A Cohasset native who played at Boston College High, Chase was named a cocaptain despite entering the season with 14 career at-bats. His leadership skills have brought a sense of focus to a Notre Dame squad that features 13 freshmen. The Irish (15-7) have won eight of their last 10 games and are 3-0 in the Big East after a three-game weekend sweep of Pittsburgh.
“He’s just one of those kids that does a little bit of everything,’’ said Notre Dame coach Mik Aoki, in his second season after four years at Boston College.
“He’s not a power guy, and from a baseball standpoint he’s a little under-tooled. But the sum of his parts is better than any one tool. He works at bats, he has come through with some clutch RBIs for us, and he doesn’t give away many at-bats.’’
That was evident during the series finale against Pitt on Sunday, when Chase drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs to push across Notre Dame’s first run in a 7-5 victory. The Irish went on to score two more times in the frame.
“He’s struggled a bit with some chronic tightness in his lower back and hips, so putting him at DH is a way to keep him in the lineup,’’ said Aoki. “More than anything we want his presence in the lineup. His leadership skills have had a huge influence on this team.’’
His leadership and service learning projects not only have earned Chase the respect of his teammates, but caught the eye of the nominating committee for the 2012 Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup. He is one of five finalists for the honor, presented annually to one college and one pro athlete who exhibit outstanding character and leadership both on and off the field, and make superb contributions to sport and society. The winner will be announced April 25 in Alabama.
“As a student athlete at Notre Dame you have such an incredible platform to have an impact in the community because of the Notre Dame brand,’’ said Chase, who heads the Christian athletes program at Notre Dame and participates in South Bend’s LifeWorks Dream Team program. “As a senior, I realize that I’m not going to have this platform forever.’’
Chase spearheaded the Fight for Tide program, in which 24 student-athletes and six administrators from the university traveled to the University of Alabama to aid relief efforts after the devastating tornadoes near Tuscaloosa. He also belongs to two highly regarded Notre Dame student-athlete groups - the Rosenthal Leadership Academy and the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, and carries a 3.581 grade point average in the Mendoza College of Business as an accounting major.
When his college career is behind him, his footprint will likely be the leadership he displayed on and off the field. Chase battled through knee surgery that sidelined him for his entire sophomore year and limited his time as a junior.
This season, he has started 16 games for the Irish, with two doubles, a triple, and six RBI. He is aware, however, that his charitable contributions and leadership qualities will far outweigh his baseball accomplishments.
“I think my legacy will be more of what I did off the field, if you look at it in terms records or awards,’’ said Chase.
His father, Mark, is a 1978 Notre Dame graduate, while his sister, Jacqueline, also a senior, is a member of the sailing team at the university. Their mother, Laura, played basketball at the University of Alabama.
“But I do think my legacy on the field, this year especially, will be the dramatic change in team culture. I think this is the starting point of an upward trend for baseball at Notre Dame, and I’m glad the senior class was a part of it.’’
Here and there
Hingham native Kelly Amonte Hiller will guide her undefeated Northwestern women’s lacrosse team into Gillette Stadium Saturday for a tilt against Ohio State. Senior All-American midfielder Alex Frank of Westwood has helped Northwestern post the lowest goals-against average in the country this season and ranks in the top five at NU in caused turnovers and draw controls. Amonte Hiller has led NU to six national championships. Amanda Belichick, daughter of the Patriots’ head coach, is an assistant on the Ohio State coaching staff. . . . They might have to break out throwback uniforms for the St. Michael’s lacrosse team. Freshman Matt Dromeshauser of Norwell netted his first two college goals during the team’s three-game spring break trip to California, breaking into the scoring during an 18-7 win over Adams State (Colo.) College. His father, Bill Dromeshauser, was a member of the program for its first three varsity seasons.John R. Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.