June 14, 2013

Chip Off The Old Block

Lovullo and Sommer follow suit.

By Emily Correia
Special to GoHolyCross.com

Everyone has heard the old adage "like father like son," but two Holy Cross athletes prove this clichéd phrase. Rising sophomores Nick Lovullo (Thousand Oaks, Calif.) and Castan Sommer (Shrewsbury, Mass.) not only resemble their fathers in person, but in their respective sports as well.

Lovullo's father, Torey Lovullo, played eight seasons of Major League Baseball after playing for UCLA and is currently the bench coach for the Boston Red Sox. Sommer's father, Roy Sommer, played nine seasons of professional hockey, including one with the NHL's Edmonton Oilers, and has been the head coach of the American Hockey League's Worcester Sharks since 1998. Each son believes they have learned a good deal from their father's experience. "The biggest thing I have learned is probably how to think the game. There are always specific ways to approach and behave in certain situations on the ice no matter what systems the team I am on at the time uses," Sommer noted.

Even before their Holy Cross debuts, Sommer and Lovullo showed that they had what it takes to follow in their fathers' footsteps. Sommer established himself the summer before his freshman year by participating in the San Jose Sharks' NHL development camp in 2012. "Even during summers I would have to end my baseball season early in order to go to hockey camps with my dad. Hockey is a year-round piece of my family, so I never really had the option to excel at any other sports. However, I wouldn't have had it any other way," recalled Sommer. Playing in all 37 games of the season and starting in 10, Sommer played in the most games of all freshmen on the team and made the only starts as a forward of all rookies. Sommer also scored six goals which led the freshman class. "…I think having my dad as a coach has only made me a better player. I am not overly fast or skilled, so I rely on my hockey sense a lot during games, and just about all of that comes from him. Sometimes I think that people believe I get to play hockey at high levels because of my dad. That, however, gives me the chance to prove that I earned and deserve to play at this level."

After committing to Holy Cross, the Toronto Blue Jays chose Lovullo in the 38th round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft as a shortstop. Lovullo illustrated exactly why Toronto picked him over any other player during his freshman season. He started in 40 of his 44 games played this season for the most starts and appearances by any rookie. His 29 hits were half of the total by the freshman class, and his 25 runs accounted for more than two-thirds of runs scored by freshman. At the conclusion of the season, Lovullo was awarded the Ron Soucie Award as the team's Rookie of the Year. He credits some of his success to what he has learned from his dad. Lovullo feels "that being around my dad when he is working I have become a much smarter baseball player. Being with him has exposed me to the highest level of baseball there is, and I take it all in and try to apply it to my game to make me better. The knowledge that he has of the game is incredible and I feel that he has made me an overall better baseball player."

Having their fathers coach in the cities near where they play has impacted the relationships with their fathers beyond learning their sports. A Shrewsbury, Mass. native, Sommer played junior hockey for the Bismarck Bobcats (NAHL) in Bismarck, N.D. for two years before returning home to play in his neighboring city of Worcester. Coming home to play near his father meant a lot to Sommer. "My dad had not seen me play hockey in two years because I was playing juniors in the Midwest. I like that now he is able to catch a few of my games now and then even with his demanding schedule."

Lovullo spent his four years of high school living in southern California playing while his father coached across the country, and spent two seasons in Canada with the Blue Jays. To Lovullo, "not being able to see my dad for great lengths of time is the toughest part, but that is the price you have to pay to be involved in professional sports. Now being able to see him and spend time with him that I usually have to go without seeing him is the best part of him coaching locally. He made it to a few of our games this year which is something that he hasn't been able to do before, as he was never able to be around."

Today, songs, movies and television programs illustrate the almost heroic role of a father to his son, but right here at Holy Cross two players show it. Both Sommer and Lovullo take after their fathers and understand the impact on their lives from their fathers' careers. Talking to both of them, it is apparent that each looks up to their father as a role model, and takes every lesson to heart. Coming into Father's Day, Lovullo reflected that, "although I do not get to see him every day, I always know that he's just a phone call away and that I can talk to him about anything. The best piece of advice that I have learned from my dad is true for both baseball and life in general. You need to take the good with the good and the bad with the bad. Don't get too high on the highs or too low on the lows. Stay humble no matter what the circumstance is. There's always another day tomorrow and that means there is another opportunity to be the best person you can be both on and off the field. In the end, everything will find a way to work itself out."