Sophomore third baseman Gerard Sweeney has been immersed in baseball since he was born.
Sweeney said there’s a photo of him as a baby with a baseball that had his birthday and time of birth inscribed into it. He even has a baseball bat inscribed with his name, too.
While baseball is a popular sport within Sweeney’s family, he said it wasn’t until high school that he developed a passion for baseball. Sweeney said he joined a travel team in high school that was geared toward getting students recruited for college.
Even amidst a slow 3-8 start entering March 6, Sweeney said his and the Lehigh baseball team’s motto for the season is to persevere and stay determined even when things get hard and the team is losing.
After starting 0-5, the team broke its losing streak on Feb. 23 when it secured its first victory against Richmond. Sweeney is recognized on the team as best carrying that persistent mindset.
“Whether he’s successful or not, he has the same consistent attitude, which is extremely important in baseball (because) it’s a sport of failure,” senior shortstop Matt Hand said. “He’s really good with dealing with that adversity. That’s what makes him such a great player.”
Sweeney is both a fierce competitor and a friendly, dependable teammate, whose positive mindset is an invaluable addition to the team, Hand said.
Sweeney has been the starting third baseman for the Mountain Hawks since coming to campus last year.
Hand said Sweeney’s arm strength and ability to adapt are especially strong aspects of his game. Sweeney also does well at bat, with a current batting average of .289.
Hitting coach A.J. Miller said Sweeney can best be described as a student of the game. Taking his craft very seriously, Sweeney can often be found watching game films of himself and other players to learn how to best improve his game, Miller said.
“He’s a team-first guy,” Miller said. “He’s always looking to do whatever it takes to help the team win, (and) he puts in the time, and guys who put in the time tend to see a lot of success. I would say he’s one of the hardest-working guys on the team.”
Sweeney is a well-rounded person on the field, in the gym, in his studies and socially, Hand said.
He said it is Sweeney’s hard work ethic that makes him such a good leader, despite only being a sophomore.
Sweeney represents his class on the team’s leadership council, and Hand sees him holding a more prominent leadership role in the years to come.
Sweeney said he’s focused on becoming a better leader and guiding his younger teammates by sharing what he’s learned through his experience on the team.
“Overall, we preach mental toughness and accountability,” Sweeney said. “Our strength coach always tells us that we’re going to get punched in the face and get knocked down, but it’s how you bounce back from that.”
After a slow start, with the team dropping its first five games, mental toughness and perseverance has been a point of emphasis thus far.
“We started off a little slow,” Sweeney said. “We struggled with a lot of things that we usually pride ourselves on, like playing good defense. Our coach calls it the ‘toughness battle,’ which is taking extra bases, reading dirtballs and stuff like that — pretty much just out-hustling the other team. We weren’t really playing our brand of baseball, but we finally showed that in our game against Richmond.”
Sweeney said the team’s contagious energy was especially high when freshman catcher Adam Retzbach hit his second home run and put the Hawks in the lead against Richmond, making for a crucial moment in the game.
The team’s goal for the season is to win the Patriot League Championship, something it has been looking forward to since missing the playoffs last season. The players have been putting in good work and believe they have the talent to make a run for the title this year, Sweeney said.
The team will play next on Wednesday, March 4, against Coppin State at J. David Walker Field at Legacy Park.