Nick Backlund is the designated hitter and plays first base for the Mercer baseball team. He is a registered junior, but a senior by hours and has one more semester left at Mercer.
Cluster: When did you start baseball?
Backlund: I started playing baseball when I was five years old.
C: Were you singled out as being a good hitter at a young age?
B: From a young age? No, I was awful. I was terrible. I was really bad until – shoot, man – I had vision problems and I had to go to vision therapy. My dad always supported me. I was always the last guy picked when I was 11 or 12. Once my 13 year old year came around, I started to become a power hitter. I took hitting lessons, throwing lessons. From there on out I’m pretty sure I’ve played baseball everyday.
C: You’ve won an award recently?
B: I was a preseason All-American in a couple different polls.
C: What does the award mean for your future?
B: It’s still pretty much open. I want to get drafted this summer and continue to play. It’s gives me exposure, it gives our program exposure. It’s good for the team. Just yesterday it came out that we were ranked 15th in the mid-major poll. It’s good for me, it’s good for the team, it’s good for everybody.
C: Do you have any target teams?
B: It doesn’t matter to me, I just want to keep playing.
C: To whom or what do you attribute your success?
B: I attribute my success to my work ethic. I like to think that I work harder than anyone else. I’ve always been a grinder. I try to grind everything out.
C: How so?
B: I’m in the cage multiple times a day and in the weight room for hours at a time, working as hard as I can.
C: So you’re constantly training?
C: Does that affect your school at all?
B: Well, I pass all my classes.
C: What’s your major?
B: I’m an economics major.
C: Are you planning on using your degree at any point?
B: I honestly have no idea. My first goal is to play baseball as long as possible. Once that comes to an end, I’ll figure it out.
C: How long to you want to play?
B: Until somebody kicks me out and tells me I have to go home.
C: Do you think the coaches have helped you?
B: Yeah, Coach Holmes instills a lot of confidence in us as hitters, he’s always positive. Coach Gibson is always pushing us to be the best that we can be and even Coach Shade makes our pitchers better and our pitchers make us better. I think the combination of those three coaches is really good for us and I think they do a great job at what they do.
C: Forgive if this seems pointed, but do you think that you carry the team?
B: I wouldn’t say I carry the team. Everybody on the team is an integral part of the team and everybody has a role and I just play a role on the team. I’m not a big ego guy, I don’t like to think that I make the team or any one person makes the team. I may happen to hit more home runs than another guy, but other than that, everybody plays a critical role.
C: Do you have any plans for the rest of your time at Mercer?
B: I want to win a ring this year. I want our season to end in a championship. I want to make a regional. I want to take the program to the next level as a team and I think we’re good enough to do that. We just beat a team that had a couple potential first-round draft picks on it on Sunday. I think as a team we will be able to attain all those goals.
Most of my goals for Mercer are team goals. I don’t sit here at the beginning of the season and say I want to hit 20 home runs or I want to hit 380. I say that I want us to win 40 games and I want us to beat Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern.
C: You’re very humble.
B: I try to be. I try to stay low to the ground. That way it seems to make me more successful.
C: Does it ever get to your head?
B: This year is a little bit different than years past. I’ve never really had as much recognition as I have now, just because Division I is a big stage. I’ve excelled at every level that I’ve played at. I wouldn’t say it goes to my head. I’ve had a lot of training in high school and junior college in terms of mental training. I try to not let anything get to my head. I just try to brush it off: good, bad or indifferent. Yeah, it’s nice to have these honors and people who respect what I do, but at the end of the day it only matters what you did in the last nine innings.