Adversity can bring out the best in people, and that is certainly the case at the University of Tampa’s baseball program.
The Tampa Spartans built the best team in the NCAA’s Division II out of players who were either cast off from their previous schools or started from the bottom.
A good example is their star slugger Dan Sullivan.
Sullivan grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, captaining his high school baseball team. Despite making the all-conference and all-state team, interest from top schools was nonexistent, so he ended up at Division III Oakton Community College.
“The first couple of weeks after I joined, I really wasn’t about it, at all,” said Sullivan in a video interview.
A call from his high school coach gave him the motivation he needed to power through.
“He said ‘If you’re really bought in, you’ve gotta buy in to this. I know it might not seem like where you wanted to be, but you’ve gotta believe in yourself. It’s a stepping ground, great players can come from [Junior Colleges].’ ”
Sullivan seems to have taken that to heart, as he batted .399 with 13 home runs as a freshman with the Oakton Owls, and had a ludicrous triple slash (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .449/.518/.834 as a sophomore.
This was enough to get the attention of the University of Tampa, where Sullivan transferred for the 2020 season, just in time for another obstacle — the pandemic.
That shortened both the 2020 and 2021 collegiate baseball calendars, and Sullivan found himself unable to get his feet under him at the higher level, batting a combined .270/.358/.418 with just three home runs in those two shortened seasons.
But 2022 has seen a rebound, putting up a .371/.425/.670 and leading the team in home runs with six.
“It feels like I finally got the real college baseball experience” said Sullivan.
Sullivan’s play at first has helped the Spartans to the top of Division II’s Sunshine State Conference with a record of 23-3.