With a quirky, sidearm slinging motion from the right side, Thomas Hackimer has gone from a New York Mets fan to a potential player for the franchise. The Floral Park native was drafted in the 15th round of Major League Baseball’s First Year Player Draft and has until July 2 to decide whether he wants to sign with the Mets or return to St. John’s University for his senior year.
Having attended John Lewis Childs School and Floral Park Memorial High School, Hackimer then played shortstop at Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens before he reached a crossroads in his baseball career. With no scholarship offers, Hackimer said he was facing the end of his playing days, but the coaches at St. John’s approached him and asked if he’d be interested in trying out as a pitcher.
The pitching coach at the time, Scott Brown, who is now the pitching coach at Vanderbilt University, brought Hackimer out to the bullpen and had him try pitching from a low arm angle. Lacking much velocity on fastball, the sidearm action makes Hackimer’s fastball dip as it reaches the plate, inducing groundballs and swinging strikes. The angle is especially tough for right-handed hitters, to whom the ball seems to be starting from behind his back.
“When I look back at the whole situation, its pretty surreal how it worked out,” he said.
Even more surreal was that it was the Mets who drafted him. Born in New Hyde Park, Hackimer came to rooting for the Mets by way of his father, but not in the typical way that a son roots for the same team as their father.
“My dad is a Red Sox fan, so I couldn’t really root for the Yankees,” Hackimer recalled over the phone from Cape Cod, where he is playing summer baseball in the famed Cape Cod League. “So I became a Mets fan by default.”
With 40 rounds, 32 teams picking and compensatory picks given to certain teams, the chances of Hackimer landing with his childhood team weren’t particularly great. But the Mets liked his ability to induce groundouts and is rare throwing style didn’t hurt either.
“He throws strikes, sinks the ball and gets a lot of outs, to simplify it,” said the Mets amateur scouting director Tommy Tanous, according to ESPN.com. “Any time you get a college pitcher that throws strikes and has the ability to sink the ball, who pitches in a good conference, this kid was very appealing to us.”
His father, Ed Hackimer, said they found out in the middle of a typical day. He was doing chores, walked in to the living room and Thomas told him.
“It’s funny, his older brother and sister also played in college at Iona, and to see him take it a step further is tremendous,” he said, referring to older brother Eddie and older sister Laura, who played baseball and softball respectively.
While he does not know whether he’ll sign with the Mets and forgo his senior season yet, Hackimer seems to have a bright future ahead of him in any case. The physics major has handled a heavier academic workload than most college athletes, and he hopes to become a theoretical physicist or engineer one day, if the whole baseball thing does not work out.