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The Battalion

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‘Eight Feet Tall’

Nathan+Dettmer
Graphic courtesy of Pranay Dhoopar
Nathan Dettmer

The sound of the dirt beneath his feet crunched as he pivoted his cleat.
Sweat dripped down his forehead as he looked across the plate for the sign.
Got it.
He stood up as the crowd watched on in anticipation.
He wound up his arm and launched the ball.
The smack resonated from the catcher’s glove among the cheers from the crowd.
The then-sophomore, now-junior pitcher, Nathan Dettmer, was in the College World Series, the highest competition in college baseball.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Nathan’s success on the mound.The two-time SEC Pitcher of the Week’s story began in Dallas with his mother, Mary Pat Dettmer and his brother, Nicholas.
“My parents got divorced when I was pretty young, so it was just us three living in Dallas,” Nathan said. “We didn’t have too much, but my mom worked super hard to make sure that me and my brother had a good life. She sacrificed so much for me.”
Growing up, Nathan said he played a multitude of different sports, including soccer, football, basketball, baseball and even track. When Nathan was in his sophomore year of high school, he had a growth spurt that allowed him to throw the ball harder as a pitcher. It was during this time Nathan realized his passion and quit other sports.
“The thing about baseball, especially as a pitcher, nothing can happen until I throw the ball,” Nathan said. “I kind of have the power. I like that. It’s a little bit selfish but I like that feeling and just knowing that I control the game. So, that’s what I really like about baseball. I love team sports, baseball is a team sport, but it’s so individual in its own way and I think that’s what makes it unique.That’s why I chose to stick with it and keep going.”
When Nathan was 12 years old, his mother remarried and the family moved to San Antonio to move in with his step-father. There, Nathan would finish out his schooling and begin building his baseball career.
“I didn’t have that father figure growing up, my stepdad really stepped in,” Nathan said. “He’s been there for me. He really taught me about [Texas] A&M. He went to A&M and kind of brainwashed me into loving this school.”
Before Nathan found his new home with his stepfather, he found himself lean- ing on his coaches to fill in for the missing figure in his life. Nathan said growing and learning with them made him who he is. Now, he plans to return the favor by being that support system for kids in situations like his.
“I am studying kinesiology right now, I’m not really sure what I want to do, but I know I want to coach at some level, somehow,” Nathan said. “Really giving back in that way, I think, will be awesome to kids in my similar situation growing up because coaches were huge for me. I’ve really leaned on them, they’ve taught me so many things besides baseball, just life lessons that I’ll use for the rest of my life.”
While Nathan doesn’t know what specific level of coaching he wants to pursue, but knows he would use his position to help younger kids find assurance in who they are on and off the field, a lesson he had to learn as well.
“I think I would really stress [the mental side] to younger kids,” Nathan said. “Growing up I was so shy, I couldn’t even order my own food at a restaurant until I was about 13. I was scared to talk to anyone older than me. So, really just instilling and giving them confidence and letting them know that it’s OK. You’re going to have to go into the uncomfortable zone, but that’s in order to make it comfortable. Instilling that confidence in them and helping them along the way, I would really like to use that mental game in that way.”
Nathan himself had to learn the importance of the mental game the hard way. In Nathan’s first year as an Aggie, he pitched in 17 games with 12 starts, but finished with a 3-2 record. Following the season, Nathan spent time in Savannah, Georgia pitching in the Coastal Plain League for the Savannah Bananas. There, he learned valuable lessons about who to be on and off the field.
“Their whole philosophy, mindset, is ‘Flip the switch,’” Nathan said. “That’s our motto that we kept saying. When you’re on the field, you’re in compete mode, you wanna go strike everyone out, you’re going all in. Once you step off the field, you flip the switch into pure entertainment and just have fun with it. So, I really brought that into my mindset at A&M. When I’m on that field and I’m working, it’s compete mode and I’m on attack always. Then, right when I step off and I’m done for the day, I’m having a good time with some of my best friends in the world and just enjoying the process as I go.”
When Nathan returned from his time on the East Coast for his second season, pitching coach Nate Yeskie recalled seeing both a physical and mental change in Nathan.
“Even though you can feel that you can really advance the mental side for everybody, it’s still a skill you have to practice and it has to be utilized every day and he — last fall — had really put in some strength and put on some weight and really started to have something,” Yeskie said. “He was really hot in the middle of the season. I think he would have continued that trend but he actually had a big blister pop up on his foot from his cleats and he didn’t say anything. He just tried to battle through it for about three, maybe four starts.”
Another aspect that improved his game, Nathan said, was understanding the faith between him and the players between him and the players behind him on the field.
“All the players behind you as a pitcher, they trust you and they all believe in you,” Nathan said. “Especially, the coaches believe in you because they’re the ones giving you the ball. I’ve really embraced that and its given me a whole lot of confidence and now I feel like when I stand on that mound I’m 8 feet tall. I have so much confidence because of all the work me and my teammates have put in.”
Although Nathan had found his confidence in his sophomore season with the Aggies, his mother, Mary Pat, remembered that his early performance in the College World Series put a dent in the confidence and assurance he had built.
“[Schlossnagle] and Yeskie, they believed in him even when he wasn’t believing in himself,” Mary Pat said. “It was hard for any of us to believe that they trusted him with that Notre Dame game in the College World Series after he stumbled so hard in the first game against OU … When they came back and said ‘We want you to pitch in Notre Dame,’ his confidence just went through the roof. It was like he was in the lowest swamp on Earth and then he went to the highest heavens. He was like ‘If they’re going to believe in me, then why don’t I believe in myself?’”
Both the hardships and success Nathan has found through the sport of baseball have culminated into lessons that he takes with him into other aspects of his life. The biggest one, Nathan said, is learning and understanding what you can and cannot control.
“I think so often, everyone gets caught up in things they can’t control,” Nathan said. “In baseball, I can’t control if the umpire calls it a ball or a strike. I can’t control the weather, I can’t control the fans. So, just focusing on what I can control, putting all my attention in that, has really given me a jump and made me so much better because of it. Installing it into my life, with school and everything going on, focusing on studying, not worrying about what other people are doing, I think that’s a great lesson that everyone can take and learn from.”
As he continues his journey at A&M, Nathan said he is grateful not to be on the opposing team and face the brigade of the 12th Man, especially Section 203, and their ability to get into the mind of the other players. However, he mostly gained his passion for the maroon and white as a result of its history and traditions.
“Around the clubhouse, there’s all these old pictures of old Aggie baseball players,” Nathan said. “Stepping into that and me being in their shoes, it just means so much and knowing all the traditions and what this university represents is what’s so special to me. I just want to make everyone proud when I’m out there wearing that logo.”
As much as drive and determination are important to pursue any kind of dream, especially one in baseball, Nathan said he wants kids to remember to enjoy the ride, the way he has done himself.
“Whatever you like doing, have fun,” Nathan said. “I think a lot of these kids look up to people, MLB players, whoever it is, and they think that they have to take it so serious, make the game a business, and you don’t. You just go out there and have fun with the game that you’re super blessed to play in college and hopefully professional[ly] one day and just have fun, don’t take it too serious and remember why you play.”
Now A&M is in the midst of its 2023 season, stacked high with expectations and those out to take their spot at the top following its 2022 campaign. Nevertheless, Nathan said he is grateful for the opportunities he has gotten while attending A&M.
“It’s been an awesome ride but I’m not done,” Nathan said. “This next year is going to be a lot of fun too. My parents have been there the whole way and just seeing them, that smile on my mom and my step-dad’s face everytime that I go out there, it’s just so worth it. I was that 13-year-old kid with a dream, playing catch with my stepdad in the backyard, I was there. Seeing all the hard work pay off, makes it all worth it for them and for me as well.”

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