Baseball - Web ExtraJuly 17, 2002
Tim Hartshorn was perhaps the least likely athlete ever to succeed as a member of the Baylor Baseball program. But then, he has never been one to worry about the odds.
Hartshorn came to Baylor from wintry Minnesota in the fall of 1997 as a 5-foot-10, 160-pound middle infielder. But even that almost didn't happen; with less than a month until he began college, Hartshorn was enrolled at Pepperdine, having put down his deposit and even received a roommate assignment. But while playing summer ball in Long Beach, Calif., Hartshorn was introduced to Baylor assistant coach Mitch Thompson.
Thompson was in California to see a couple of Hartshorn's teammates who would eventually become four-year lettermen at Baylor in pitcher Josh Scott and infielder Matt Williams.
"I was introduced to Coach Thompson through Matt's dad, Everett," Hartshorn recalled. "Coach T never even saw me play; we got rained out the day he was supposed to watch. But he took Everett's word for it and guaranteed me a spot on the team as a walk-on."
Hartshorn's dream all through high school had been to play baseball for academic and baseball powerhouse Stanford, but when his test scores fell short of Stanford's lofty standards, he turned his focus elsewhere. He was prepared to attempt to walk on at Pepperdine when Baylor came calling.
"Baylor was half the cost of the other places I was looking at," Hartshorn said. "So even though I was walking on there, it was like I had a half scholarship compared to the other schools."
Once he reached Baylor, however, Hartshorn again found the deck stacked against him.
"It was kind of frustrating, because I came in with Matt and Josh, and those guys got to play a lot. I was nowhere near the field. Plus, I was having some arm problems, and my first semester of school was probably the hardest semester I ever had. I wanted to be a part of something, but it was hard to feel like a complete part of the team if I wasn't doing anything."
Hartshorn redshirted his first year, then appeared in only one game with one at-bat the next season.
"That next summer, I called around Minnesota and found an amateur team," Hartshorn said. "I had a blast, plus I got in the weight room every day. That extra baseball plus the weight work gave me an extra boost so that when I came back in the fall, I played really well."
That extra work got Hartshorn into the lineup when starting second baseman Preston Underdown struggled with injuries early in the 2000 season, and Hartshorn made the most of it. After Underdown healed, Hartshorn continued to see significant time, appearing in 40 games as a sophomore and hitting .260. Those numbers improved sharply his junior season, when he hit .322 while starting 49 of Baylor's 61 games, appearing mostly in left field and at DH.
"With Trevor Mote playing well at second base, the coaches were just looking for a way to get us both in the line-up," Hartshorn said. "I played the last fall intrasquad game in left field, and when we came back in the spring, we only had three weeks before the season. When the year started at Enron, I was in left."
Hartshorn again played most everyday in left field for Baylor as a senior this past season, hitting .287 in 57 games, and serving as team co-captain while the team made its fifth-straight NCAA Regional appearance.
"When I look back on what I've done at Baylor, I have no regrets," Hartshorn said. "I tried as hard as I could and gave it all I could give. If this is as far as I go, then this is far as I go. I wasn't an all-American, or all-conference, but I did my best.
"I told the team when we met after the season that nobody is going to play baseball forever. Some will go on to play pro ball, some won't. For me, this may be it. But I won't miss playing as much I'll miss the routine: the bus trips, joking with my teammates, staying in hotels. I've seen the same guys for five years; they've really become a part of my life."
"Tim's story is really a wonderful story," Baylor baseball coach Steve Smith said. "He walked on, had a lot of injuries early to the point where it was highly questionable whether he'd be able to play for this team. He obviously overcame those odds and became a significant contributor."
Hartshorn will work full-time at Hillcrest Medical Center in Waco for the next year while establishing Texas residency. After the yearlong wait, he will be heading to medical school to look to reach his next goal of becoming a doctor, at least until he decides on his next goal.
"There are too many things out there to just want to do one thing," he said. "One goal is to go to med school and become a doctor, but there's no way I can only do that. I want to do all the little things: be a little league coach, have a nice family, travel, maybe spend some time living outside the U.S."
If one thing is clear from looking at Hartshorn's past, it's not to bet against him.