By Laura Amato
A few months ago, Thomas Hackimer was sitting on a bus on a Sunday night desperately trying to avoid “Game of Thrones” spoilers.
He refused to check Twitter, wouldn’t open Facebook, would barely even talk to his St. John’s baseball teammates for fear of finding out information about his favorite show before he had a chance to watch it.
He had to see how the story would unfold himself, and inadvertently running into spoilers on the Internet wasn’t a chance he was willing to take.
While it might seem like a stretch— even to Hackimer—the Floral Park native’s baseball career is a bit like the storylines on “Game of Thrones.”
Hackimer, drafted 123rd overall by the Minnesota Twins this year, isn’t trying to seize control of a fantasy kingdom, but his own story is an exciting one, filled with one-of-a-kind characters and moments that even the most dramatic spoilers couldn’t have predicted.
“This is where it’s actually getting really interesting because people are having trouble predicting what will happen,” Hackimer said of the hit show. “A lot of the stuff this season was exciting because they didn’t have any idea what was coming and some of the stuff was just legitimate shocks.”
Hackimer’s description of the show could, very easily, be used to describe his career with the Red Storm.
Once upon a time Hackimer was a standout at Archbishop Molloy, a dominant presence at shortstop, but he opted to attend St. John’s on an academic scholarship instead of athletic.
He refused to leave baseball, however, and decided to try and walk on to the squad. There was just one problem—the team didn’t need a shortstop.
So, Hackimer rolled with the metaphorical punches—or pitches, as it were—and allowed the St. John’s coaching staff to push him towards pitching.
Hackimer started throwing sidearm for the Red Storm and, over the next four years, became one of the most dominant relievers in Big East history.
“The first time I worked with the pitching coach, he immediately dropped me to the lower arm slot,” Hackimer said. “The appeal was that I could keep playing baseball if I did it and it turned out that it was a pretty comfortable way of doing things.”
Hackimer’s presence on the mound was so impressive that he was selected by the Mets in the 15th round of the MLB draft after his junior season in 2015. He didn’t sign with the team. Instead, he decided to come back to school for his senior season.
People told him he was crazy. He had missed his chance. Hackimer disagreed. He just knew it hadn’t been the right situation and he was willing to wait for one that was.
“A lot of people viewed that as a mistake because of how seniors are treated in the draft,” Hackimer said. “It was all kind of motivation to do even better than I would normally do.”
Hackimer’s risk paid off.
He went 7-3 this season, posting a 1.17 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 53.2 innings of work. It seemed he picked up a new honor every other day, conveniently pointed out to him by the texts his mom sent to his family’s group chat.
“It’s been really amazing when I look back to where I started this whole journey from to see how far I’ve come,” Hackimer said. “I try to avoid saying I wanted to prove people wrong, because I don’t like the cliche, but to a degree that’s totally true.”
Hackimer hasn’t had it easy now that he’s a pro. In his first six games with the Cedar Rapids Kernels, he’s posted a 3.52 ERA and notched one loss.
He’s determined to turn things around. After all, he’s already been on a personal quest of sorts. He isn’t going to give up now.
Hackimer has a handful of theories as to what will happen in the future—when it comes to both his career and “Game of Thrones.” And while he refuses to get his TV-watching hopes up—he’s seen too many characters die—he’s got high expectations for himself.
If there’s a baseball equivalent to the Iron Throne, then Hackimer is coming for it.
“I’d be very happy if I just finished out the season throwing well here and if I’m very lucky, then maybe some call-up towards the end of the year,” he said. “I’d like to be able to move up to high-A and then maybe start the season there next year.”