Third-year infielder Ken Hemmer discovered his love for baseball growing up in Tokyo, Japan. He grew up immersed in the rich baseball culture of Japan and watching Japanese baseball-legend Ichiro Suzuki. But his inspiration to play the sport came from family tradition.
“My Japanese grandpa was pretty big into baseball and unfortunately he passed, but my mom wanted me to carry on the tradition,”Hemmer said. Hemmer now finds himself here at USF, hoping to leave a positive impact in any way he can.
During recruitment, Hemmer says he was fortunate enough to have a good set of game film that could impress the coaches. In addition to film, Hemmer also discussed how important it was to build a good relationship with the staff and have a personal connection.
“The school definitely means a lot,” he said. “From a coach’s perspective, I’m a huge gamble. I was an overseas kid that they didn’t really know much about. But they were gracious enough to extend an opportunity for me. ”
Hemmer might be 5,000 miles away from home, but his dad is from Chicago, so the move to San Francisco was not too difficult for him. Coming to America to play baseball was always something he wanted to do. Hemmer said he loves San Francisco and appreciates that the city has its own baseball culture.
Hemmer has been on the Hilltop for two years, one as a redshirt, and is still waiting for his first collegiate performance. But with two years of training and learning with the team, Hemmer said it’s finally the time to show what he is capable of. “For me, it’s more so proving myself right. I’ve always believed in myself, and I think that confidence is amplified this year,” he said. ”It’s a different mentality knowing that you’ve put in the work.”
Like any Division I baseball player, Hemmer would love to see himself playing and putting up great numbers, but he’s much more focused on his lasting impact on his peers and the team. “It’s more about the relationships you build, and the connections you make. And lifting the people around you up,” he said. He added that this way of looking at things is what helps build a championship culture around the team. Hemmer also understands that some things are bigger than baseball, mentioning that “baseball doesn’t last forever,” but the relationships he makes along the way do.
An inspiration of Hemmer’s has always been Suzuki, the MLB superstar who played in the league for 28 seasons and also grew up in Japan. Suzuki is someone who is almost “like a God” to Hemmer. Being from Japan and making such a huge impact on the game of baseball, it was natural that Suzuki was Hemmer’s favorite player growing up. Still to this day Hemmer says he listens to old interviews of Suzuki and podcasts with or about him, and says that “his words are always just so impactful.”
Hemmer is looking forward to this upcoming spring season and said that having lots of new players gives the team an opportunity to shock the world. He’s excited for the friendly competition between himself and his team and hopes they push each other to be the best they can be. With his positive mindset and appreciation for the school, it is easy to root for Hemmer. With three years left of eligibility there will be a lot more to see from him and he is certainly one to watch this coming spring.