Fields has a Thome-Like Dream
Former Silver Streak to play D-1 baseball at Nicholls State By Jeff Holt Published February 25, 2021 in The Burg Nick Fields probably won't hit 612 home runs in the big leagues or get inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
But in a roundabout way, there are some similarities between the scrappy Fields and the famous Thome (beyond playing third base and being from Illinois). Especially, when you think of Thome growing up 45 minutes away in Peoria as just a 13th round draft pick in 1989. Beyond all of that, they both give a great deal of credit to their dads in getting them to where they are at today. "Baseball is all about family," said Thome in his Hall of Fame speech, which was two years ago and currently has over 29,000 views on social media. Fields is 20 years old now. He's completed three semesters at Heartland Community College with a 3.75 grade point average in the classroom. He just spent three months of rehab after a knee injury and is ready to be the starting third baseman if they somehow played on Saturday in their opener at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel. All of his hard work has also led to an early commitment to continue his baseball career next season at Nicholls State University to play Division I baseball. "I'm 100 percent now," said Nick. "It's been a year since the surgery. I was able to play in the Colonel Collegiate league in the summer. Mark quickly gave credit to his son, Nick, for doing all the work. "He's done it," Mark said. "They get up early every morning and lift at 5 a.m. He grew up in a baseball family and he lived at Voyles (Field) when he was younger. He's lucky with the older brothers - all of them played college baseball (David at Lindenwood University; A.J. at Arkansas Little Rock; and Christopher at Culver Stockton). Several baseball fans in the Galesburg area still remember Nick's dad, Mark, who was an all-Western Big 6 Conference pitcher and first baseman his senior year for Gary Bruington at GHS. Mark went on to play one year at Carl Sandburg College for the late Jim Isaacson and then one year at Monmouth College for Terry Glasgow. Some of his teammates at Monmouth were Robb Long and Knoxville's Tim Jones and Mike Simkins. Mark is retired from UPS, but he has still been able to throw plenty of batting practice to his youngest son. And Nick is quick to credit his dad. "It's definitely been my dad from day one," said Nick, when asked about who has been the most influential in getting him to this point of his career. "He's pushed me to be the best that I can be for sure. We definitely get a little competitive when he throws." Nick said his dad can still "bring it" pretty well, too, with his pitches from 25 feet away with a metal screen in front of him. A 2019 graduate of Galesburg High School, Nick stands in at about 6 foot and 185 pounds. His goal this season is for the Heartland baseball team to make it to the Junior College World Series. Another boost for Nick this season is that two of his former high school teammates - Connor Aten and Mitchel Sampson - are also on the Hawks baseball team. "It's been a great time," he said. "I room with Mitchell and Connor doesn't live too far away. I think all three of us like to work really hard and I think we push each other. We get that from Coach (Jeremy) Pickrel to be the best we can be and he has instilled that into us." Continued Nick, about his time at Heartland, "We have around 50 games on the schedule. The field is very nice, a turf field. I really like the coaches and they are known for moving guys on to the Division I level. I think that catches a lot of guys attention who aren't quite ready for Division I baseball out of high school." Nick also pitched in high school. However, he decided this year to just dial in on playing third base and hitting. Nick still says there is always room for improvement in getting bigger, stronger and faster. * * * * * * * * Ending note: Please watch that video if you can of Thome's Hall of Fame speech. He thanked his mom for standing up for him when his two older brothers "crushed him" playing one-on-one hoops in the driveway. He ended his Hall of Fame speech by thanking his dad and it was one of the best speeches I've ever heard. Thome's playing days are now done and now Nick Fields gets his chance to begin a promising a career, a dream of making it to the big leagues like several others. I'll end with a quote from former Cleveland Indians hitting coach Charlie Manuel, "What made Jimmy (Thome) so good was the hard work he put into becoming a major league player. He worked on his swing and became one of the best power hitters in the game. And you couldn't meet a nicer guy."