Conversations with Hunter Sullivan
Conversations with Hunter Sullivan
There is no way anyone could have predicted the three seasons that Hunter Sullivan would have as a varsity member of the Elizabethtown Baseball team. After an unbelievable sophomore season in which he went undefeated during the regular season and playoffs (until State), Sullivan had his junior year cut short by an arm injury and then was unable to play in the state tournament in his senior season because of an ejection in the 5th Region Championship. Yet in one way or another, he made a profound impact on his team and will take his act to an even bigger stage at the University of Louisville.
Here he tells his story in an article written after his senior season in 2016
My biggest inspiration as a baseball player was Ken Griffey Jr. as a kid. I was big on hitting when I was little. I enjoyed pitching, but it was something that my brother Eric did. I followed in his footsteps, but I would say probably a couple Major League guys like Griffey Jr. whom I looked up to. I had that left-handed swing that I wanted to model after his and just guys like that I really enjoyed watching. I will always remember him as a Red, because that was later in his career. I wasn’t old enough to watch him as a Seattle Mariner. I did get to see him play. I saw him with the Reds a lot.
Someone used the term “The Sullivan Luck” to describe my sophomore season with Elizabethtown. (Meaning everything had to fall into place like the weather delay in the District Final against Central Hardin and the delay in the 5th Region Championship against Bethlehem which set up Sullivan’s appearance in both which were games the Panthers eventually won). I agree with that although I’ve never heard the term until now. A lot of times throughout that year, I’d take wins from pitchers when I’d pitch just one or two innings. We found ways to win. It wasn’t just the pitching. It was like whenever I’d come in we would have guys start hitting the ball. We’d have things go right. I didn’t always know what was going on, but things just started happening. I was just caught up in the moment. I was young and didn’t know whether things would just continue or if this was how things were then. It was pretty big. We had good players and big bats in fact our pitchers really stepped up and we won most of our games that season.
I remember pitcher Alan Webb, who pitched for Bethlehem that year was on the losing end of our two 1-0 wins over them (one during the regular season and the other in the Region Final) and I was asked if the roles were reversed (because I pitched against him in both of those games) if the Eagles would have won with me pitching for them. I don’t think so. Nothing against Bethlehem, but if I pitched for them in those two games, we (Panthers) were very heavy in hitters I think it would be hard to win against that Elizabethtown team.
My junior season, I was throwing a slider against Central Hardin and injured my arm. I kind of felt it, but I did finish that inning out though and I told coach that I probably couldn’t go back out for infield. It could have been the result of a previous injury, because I had always had a little bit of elbow pain. I had dislocated it in middle school and they actually found that I had two tears on it later on. I thought I only had one, but I had two. It just could have been from all the baseball and football too at quarterback playing and maybe even further back before high school. It just happens. I have heard that throwing a baseball isn’t a natural motion. I have been asked if playing summer ball might lead to some arm injuries and I’m not sure. Summer baseball tends to be more relaxed and I don’t throw as much as I do in high school. You’ll find innings (to pitch), but you won’t be overwhelmed with innings to pitch. I don’t know if you’ll be overwhelmed by summer ball, but it might take a toll.
Funny thing though. When Zeke (Pinkham) went down with an injury, I began to wonder what else could happen and then it happens to me and I began to think it was a fluke or something. I don’t know what happened. We did win the Region that year and it was a great team. I have to give them credit for that. I think they really stepped up. A lot of guys who didn’t expect to play that much did like Zach Mauldin, who went to catcher and we could have used him as a pitcher, but there was a lot of things that could have went different. They fought through a lot and you have to give them credit for that completely. Funny thing happened when Zach was the starting catcher in the District Final that year against Central Hardin and he ended up being the losing pitcher in that extra inning game.
Do I like the new pitch count rule? Not as much although it’s good for some pitchers, but the difference between one or two pitches in the day I would disagree a little with that. I think there is a little bit of leniency there. I don’t think a pitcher should ever throw more than 120-pitches.
Someone once asked me if after my sophomore season, Elizabethtown would win the Region Tournament in my junior and senior season, but I wouldn’t get to pitch at state in either season would I believe it? I’d probably be curious at why someone would say that. Like “Why Wouldn’t I?” I wouldn’t understand why someone would say that. I’d be surprised.
Since the injury to my throwing arm would I be more conscious of being hit while batting and suffering a re-injury? Well, it’s out there. I do wear body armor on it and early on in football say I worried a little in the first part of the season which I shouldn’t have been. I should have trusted that everything was going to be alright. I was probably a little worried, but after a football season and coming into a baseball season I didn’t think about it. I don’t think batting I was ever worried about someone hitting my elbow.
Rehab after my injury was a lot of physical therapy. With the football team, I did a lot of running and I eventually did some weight lifting there and some P T’s . I did some light lifting at first. When I was in the splint thing it wasn’t much fun. I’m the type of person that doesn’t want to just sit around with your arm stuck in that machine of a thing. That’s how much fun it is to play a game that you play and you realize that you really take for granted a game that you love to play and you might not always appreciate or get to be around. It did dawn on me that I might have to adjust or my velocity could be different or my throwing motion afterwards. I did try to just think positive the whole time, because I felt that would really help me out the best and just look forward to being out on the mound.
The concussion that I suffered in football in the playoffs was a rough one. I can’t say for sure that was the first I’ve ever had, because I’ve played football all my life and I’ve been hit in the head so many times. I can say that one was the worst because when I got to the sideline I couldn’t remember much so I’d say it was the worst. I didn’t have any lingering effects afterwards. I felt good the next day, but that night going to the hospital my parents told me how many times I asked the same questions and got the same answers so it was a rough concussion though.
I’ve never been the superstitious type. Although, if I’m hitting the ball real well, I might continue doing something over again, but I’m not superstitious. I don’t have a pre game meal before games. Sometimes I’ll eat before a game and sometimes not. The things I do are not on a schedule. Sometimes I just fly by the seat of my pants.
I’ve always been a Reds fan. My family are big Reds fans.
I’m not a fan of the computerized home plate umpire. I don’t like that at all. I’d rather have an umpire back there because as a pitcher, the catcher can make balls look very well and with an umpire they can call balls that look like strikes. With something like that, the catcher framing the ball won’t work anymore.
If I could pitch in a major league ballpark it would probably be Fenway Park. It’s so old and probably because there is so much tradition. I guess that would be a field that I would like to play on. I’ve never been there. I feel like that would be a great field and I’d love to see the green monster in person.
Pete Rose. I think that having all of those hits means something. Upholding the rule against gambling is something that you must do to keep the integrity of the game. I think that it’s a hard question. Breaking rules is something I don’t agree with, but doing something so great like he did to say that he can’t be in the hall of fame for that.
The game of baseball is changing. Maybe the better athletes are playing other sports than baseball or people are finding something else to do. I know I love the game of baseball and I’d like to pitch as long as I can. Maybe people are playing football, basketball or soccer. I’m not sure. Also, hitters are becoming better and to pitch most likely you’ll just be pitching so you’ll only be pitching in the higher levels and it can cause a lack of interest for some people.
If I get a chance to play in the Major Leagues, how would I feel about the DH? I would love to hit and if that’s not what I’m going to get to do then I’ll understand. If they get someone to DH me then they are probably a better hitter then I am. I’ll hit and pitch for as long as I can.
Because I was coming off an injury this season, I relieved a lot. It does help you appreciate the guys who do this for a living. I saw a thing about Craig Kimbrel and it shows how being that type of reliever and coming in to a game and with the game is on the line with you coming in and if you blow this game it’s all on you. There’s some stress there, but you just have to realize the situation and be proud that you are there because those big situations are the kind that I enjoy and I think that it’s something that you live for.
After baseball, I’d like to try sports psychology. Maybe stay around the game as much as possible and work in sports. What I’ve been doing most of my life is being around sports and being around the atmosphere. I may find something else to do down the road, but I’d like to try this.
If I had a defining moment it might be getting the last out in the 2014 Region Championship. I threw my glove across the field afterwards. It was a great moment, but there were many great moments. To me, just picking several moments like the times I had at Panther Academy with the guys who are a little bit older than me, but I did spend time with those guys and it was great.
For the next guy who comes along at Elizabethtown, the best piece of advice I could give him is to try and have fun. Also, to understand that even though I was around for about five years it goes by fast and to try and have fun while you are playing it.