April 24, 2012
By Briana Coyne
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – As senior infielder Tommy Chase walks into the batter’s box, OneRepublic’s “Good Life” plays over the loudspeakers in Frank Eck Stadium. Often walk-up songs consist of rap or country lyrics, some kind of pump up tune. But for Chase, this fits.
The Cohasset, Mass., native has been named a finalist for the prestigious Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup by Athletes for a Better World. In honor of the UCLA basketball coach, this award is presented to a collegiate athlete as well as a professional athlete “for their character and leadership both on and off the field and for their contributions to sport and society.”
Previous winners include Peyton Manning (2005), Mia Hamm (2010) and Tim Tebow (2009).
“You know it is really an honor just to be mentioned with the types of individuals that have won it,” Chase said. “I think really the biggest thing for me is being able to represent Notre Dame and trying to give back to this University in repayment for all it has done for me.”
Ever since he was a child, Chase wanted to play ball for the Fighting Irish. Both his father and sister graduated from the University and their love of the school was passed on to Chase.
However, before his sophomore year, Chase suffered an injury to his left knee that ended his season with the Irish before it started. Many athletes would consider this kind of setback discouraging if not cause for an identity crisis, but Chase credits this experience and what followed to be a “defining moment” in his life.
“It showed Tommy that even when he is not on the field he can take a leadership position. He really thrived from that,” Will Hudgins, fellow co-captain and senior pitcher, stated. “Some guys would have had an injury and not really bounced back, but it made Tommy stronger.”
While rehabbing his knee that year, Chase became involved in Notre Dame Christian Athletes, a group for which he has been President of the past two years, as well as LifeWorks Dream Teams.
“That is when my faith started to shape me a little bit more and I started to get involved with other avenues that Notre Dame presents opportunities for,” Chase said.
With LifeWorks Dream Teams, the Irish middle infielder along with other student-athletes visit third and fourth grade classrooms at local elementary schools once a week for five weeks in the fall. These lessons are centered around the topic of pursuing dreams, no matter the difficulties or hardships. This semester, Chase has continued working with third graders at Perley Elementary School along with Irish golfer Andrew Carreon. The pair helps students prepare for their standardized test, ISTEP.
Chase’s involvement in the community does not stop there. He brought up the idea of doing a service project with Student Welfare and Development. As a result, during fall break, Chase and 23 other student-athletes traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to help with tornado relief. While there, the Irish athletes worked with University of Alabama softball head coach Pat Murphy and members of the softball team to clear the lots of debris so rebuilding could take place in the community.
This past winter, he helped organize the baseball team’s efforts in the “Adopt-a-Family” program, in which they raised almost $1,000 to purchase gifts for a family of eight, the largest family in the program.
“It was a lot more work than I thought it was going to be, but being able to give those kids the presents and see the look in their eyes when they were opening them is what it is all about,” Chase commented.”
In his past four years at Notre Dame, Chase, who holds a 3.58 in accounting, also has been involved in Habitat for Humanity, Buddy Walk, Irish Experience League, Pediatric Christmas Party, and Play for Peace. Currently, Chase participates in the Rosenthal Leadership Academy as well as the Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC).
“I definitely think the Lord has put it on my heart to serve others and make that a priority in my life,” Chase said. “I understand the impact that myself and other student-athletes can have because of our platform especially with helping those who don’t necessarily have the blessings that I have had in coming to Notre Dame and having a great family.”
Chase accredits his relationships with others as having a large impact on his life and development especially in regard to service. Starting with the unwavering support from his family and including his friends, teammates and mentors, like Redford Maust, the founder of LifeWorks and Alabama softball coach, Pat Murphy, Chase says they have helped shape the person that he is today.
“When I was in Alabama, I had an opportunity to really talk to him (Pat Murphy) and he was mentoring me on leadership and what I plan on doing going forward,” Chase said. “And Redford, his influence in my life has been profound really. He is just someone who has been a constant supporter and you know that is really special to have.”
Carreon, who has worked on several service projects with Chase including Fight for Tide and Dream Teams, feels strongly about the importance of Chase’s role in community service.
“His focus is just absolutely on people, his relationships with people and what he can do for others, how they are feeling, and how he can help someone,” said Carreon. “That is what he cares about.”
With so much time and effort devoted to service and volunteering, it is hard to imagine how Chase has time for baseball, but he does and he has remained whole-heartedly committed to the team. This past season, Chase was unanimously voted co-captain of the Irish baseball team along with Hudgins.
“I don’t know how he does it honestly. Tommy is just dedicated to everything that he does and I think he really embodies what Notre Dame is about,” Hudgins said. “Having known him as long as I have, there is no one better for the job of captain and honestly he makes my life a lot easier. There is no one else that I would want to be captain with.”
“I think the guys just respect him so much as a person, who he is, and what he stands for,” Irish head coach Mik Aoki stated. “I think they respect the fact that his faith is really important to him, his family is really important to him, and to be honest, this University is really important to him.”
This season, Chase and Hudgins have worked on developing the culture of the team. According to Chase, this culture is dedicated to understanding the purpose and goals of the baseball team as well as being good teammates and each player knowing their respective roles. His leadership and dedication to the team on and off the field is something that is apparent to the coaches and his fellow teammates.
“I think I am fortunate in that I coach a team with a lot of hard workers on it, but nobody outworks Tommy. He never griped about being on the bench last year. Tommy just plugged along. He tried to lead by example. Tommy was positive in the dugout, in the clubhouse, the whole deal,” Aoki said.
With these kinds of credentials, it is no surprise that Chase is among the five student-athletes who were named as finalists for the Wooden Citizenship Cup. The recipient of the award will be announced on Wed., Apr. 25th at a ceremony in the Egyptian Ballroom at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Athletes for a Better World will present Lady Volunteer’s basketball coach Pat Summit, the professional athlete being honored, with the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup as well.
“I think Tommy is great for the award, because he absolutely understands the big picture,” Carreon said. “Some peoples’ lives are encompassed in what their sport is and they find their identity in the baseball team or the golf team. That is not true with Tommy. He absolutely goes after baseball and goes after academics and that is very important to him, but also he understands that life is not all in all baseball or academics.”
For Chase, winning the award would be a great honor, but in his eyes, he has already succeeded. . “I think once you start to give back to Notre Dame that is when you start to tap into that Notre Dame spirit,” Chase explained. “When you start becoming a part of the university and you start to leave something behind that is when you start to leave your mark on it.”
Listening to the lyrics of OneRepublic’s “Good Life” play as Chase steps up to the plate, this song rings true to his outlook on his experience here at Notre Dame. Chase is representing his dream school on a national platform after being nominated for one of the most prestigious athletic awards; he is playing baseball for the Irish; and most importantly to Chase, he is giving back to Notre Dame and the community. As his walkup song says, “This could really be a good life, a good, good life.”
— ND —