As we continue to count down the days until the Iowa high school baseball season begins, we here at IAbaseball look back at some of the exciting and interesting conversations of the past. Here is one of our most enlightening conversations that we had awhile back with Wahlert Catholic star Tommy Specht shortly after his commitment to the University of Kentucky…..
At this point in the year, baseball may be focused on the professional ranks, but there’s plenty of action at both the collegiate and high school levels.
Within the state of Iowa, that includes collegiate commitments like that of (Dubuque) Wahlert Catholic product Tommy Specht. After making his name early on in his baseball playing career, there was quite a lot of attention paid to Specht and for good reason. In his freshman campaign alone, Specht clobbered 30 hits, 33 percent of which were for extra bases. He followed that up in his sophomore campaign with eight extra-base hits, and an increase of 11 RBI from 2018-19.
From all of that output, a lot of interest came about from D1 programs. Through just two years of high school ball, Specht had contact with six different schools and received two to three offers on the table. Initially, Specht sported a commitment to the University of Illinois baseball program. After some time, Specht decided that a college career at the University of Kentucky (among several other SEC schools) was his true calling.
“There were a couple of offers but what was a little different about Kentucky is that they wanted to really develop a relationship rather than just throwing an offer out and seeing if I take it,” said Specht. “Both me and my parents had multiple two-hour Zoom calls with the recruiting coordinator and head coach. Forming relationships is big for me and the coaches there are great. It’s SEC baseball and at the end of the day, it was a no-brainer of what I wanted to do.”
Joining an SEC team is always a big deal, and for Specht, he marks the fourth family member to play collegiate baseball. He becomes the second family member to commit to a division one program with Kentucky being the largest program for a Specht individual.
He now joins a Kentucky baseball program complete with nine NCAA tournament appearances including a Super-Regional appearance back in 2017. They have 21 SEC Conference tournament appearances under their belts as well. That includes a conference title in 2006. The Wildcats hold an all-time winning percentage of .512 He will join former Solon High School product Harrison Cook as Iowa natives to be on the roster.
“It’s cool to know there are others from the state of Iowa who have made the jump,” mentioned Specht. “It’s a big move for me and to see that others have not only done so before me but have been successful at it, makes things that much more comfortable for me going forward.”
While the overall outcome is amazing, the journey to get there had quite the list of twist and turns, not to mention a world-wide pandemic. That in itself made a normally…normal pathway quite rocky but teaming up with a familiar component in the 21st century shortened the new and lengthy road to be recognized.
“It was pretty crazy with COVID and all,” began Specht. “I’ve really depended on video. I’d say every week I was sending video just to keep everyone updated. It was a little hard but I was able to be in touch with coaches.”
Along with what Specht has shown as a Dubuque Wahlert Golden Eagle, his attributes have proven exactly why college teams have been eying him for so long. As the top-ranked 2022 grad according to Prep Baseball Report Iowa, Specht has constantly shown his ability to play at the next level. He has quick hands through the zone (over 23 for velocity) which has produced a max bat speed of 70 mph not to mention a maximum exit speed of over 95.
“I like to pride myself on quick movements including with my hands,” began Specht. “It helps me with my decision making and it’s something I’ve focused on ever since I got into baseball competitively and I still focus on that.”
Of course, it’s not hard to see just how he clocks 90 mph from the outfield (100 maxed in late February) as he has an even more intense focus.
“It’s very important to me to keep working on fundamentals because without a strong base, it’s impossible to improve or grow,” mentioned Specht. “I’ve always made it a point to focus on improving my fundamentals and I feel I’ve improved a lot from that.”
It’s been a strong road for the junior who is one of just nine 2022 grads to have a collegiate commitment and one of just four in his class to hit the D1 ranks. It’s a rare feat but one that Sphecht takes on not just proudly, but very respectfully as well. Just like the fundamentals of baseball drive his physical talents, his mental fundamentals also drive the mental talents for the lefty bat.
“It really is a blessing and I can’t thank my family, friends, and coaches enough because they have meant a lot to me as I’ve gotten to this point,” began Specht. “With having people around me that played D1 it helps because we can have conversations about what the atmosphere is like and what to expect. I like to learn as much about the game as I can to be as well rounded as possible.”
Having a conversation about baseball and thoughts about college ball with Tommy Specht is like chatting with someone already at the collegiate level. The confidence and skill are there for sure; however it’s that desire to not just be good, but the best is what sets him apart from others. That desire and his knowledge of the game and its inner workings is quite amazing as well. Very few posses such talent inside and outside the brain but such is the case for the future Kentucky Wildcat. All of that is part of his well rounded pursuit which to him, is a big part of that next level of which he already looks the part.
“Growing up and watching players at the college level, it’s easy to see that most if not all of them are well-rounded,” said Specht. “To me, that’s part of what it takes to be at that next level. It’s not just something to strive for be more of a requirement. I’m always looking to be the best that I can be and I’ll continue that at Kentucky.”
Until he reaches his collegiate destination, Specht will continue to press on at the high school/prep level. As he does that, fans can routinely see him at various club events as well as preparing for the normal high school season. Even though Specht already has his collegiate commitment, the importance of events such as the PBR-Iowa Preseason All-State Showcase is as high as ever.
“I feel it’s important to continually improve my skills and going to these events help to do that,” said Specht. “I appreciate everything that PBR and others do to help and I feel it’s important to continually put myself out there. It’s still as important to me now as it was before I committed to a college program. Especially with this whole pandemic, it was still important to get out and the showcase events really helped with that so that even my coaches at Kentucky could see as well.”
So there you have it folks, a conversation in the books with future Wildcat and current Golden Eagle star Tommy Specht. Among the several individuals to look up to, younger players (and even older players) should look to the ways of Specht. What he has done across his prep playing career is a road map of what can work and be successful. Everybody paves their own paths, and the one Specht has drawn up is as unique as can be, but with parts to emulate for sure.
Specht is one of many individuals who have made high school baseball in the state of Iowa so fun and why the excitement for the 2021 season is as high as ever. The high school world has been on the lookout and will continue to be on watch for Specht and the Golden Eagles.