By Alexa Gold
Hailing from West Linn, Ore., Tim Tawa ’21 has had a distinguished Stanford career on the baseball diamond. As a freshman, he hit a walk-off three-run home run in his 10th game before helping lead the Cardinal to the Pac-12 championship that year. The November before his sophomore year, Tawa suffered a shoulder injury, from which the recovery process was long, but he came back stronger than ever to help his team win a regional in 2019. Tawa majored in Communication, and as a junior he made the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll. Having graduated in the winter, Tawa looks now to help his team compete for a College World Series title before pursuing a career in the MLB.
The Daily’s Alexa Gold spoke with Tawa about his time on The Farm, goals for the remainder of his 2021 season and more.
TSD: When did it become clear that you could play baseball at the college level, and when did Stanford enter the equation?
Tim Tawa (TT): I always wanted to play college sports. I wasn’t really sure whether it was going to be baseball when I was younger; I also played football and really enjoyed that, too. But I wasn’t ever consciously thinking, “This is the time I know I’m going to play college athletics.” I was just pushing myself to be the best player at whatever sport I was playing at that time. I kind of left that up to the coaches that recruited me, to determine that I was good enough to be at that level. I just enjoyed working and trying to be the best that I could, and I was going to let the chips fall where they would. And I was lucky enough to play varsity baseball as a freshman in high school. I guess that kind of told me, “Okay, I can hang with these guys. I can play with guys that are older than me and still hold my own.” And then Stanford came into the equation the year after that, I think, and it was a pretty quick recruiting process. I always wanted to come here. My parents were always pushing academics along with athletics, and there’s no better place than Stanford — once they entered the equation, as you said, and showed some interest, it wasn’t a hard decision for me at all.
TSD: I’d love to know what this season has been like so far and the ways in which it’s been different from last year.
TT: It’s been interesting just because of the abbreviated fall. Usually we get to be on campus early in summer or in September, and that’s where all our work to prepare for the season starts — whether it’s intersquads, or just practicing with each other, getting to know the freshmen, incorporating them, getting back with your teammates — we didn’t really have that. The first time we had our whole team together was sometime in February, so about three weeks before our actual season started — simply unheard of. So that was probably one of the bigger adjustments — but this year has been a lot of fun for me, especially because I wasn’t really expecting to be back this year. Just with how COVID played out, it was kind of a unique opportunity, just to be back and enjoying playing here again, because I really love playing for the coaches, playing with my team, with my class specifically. So it’s been a lot of fun, and I think that has been my big focus this year — just trying to enjoy this year, because, again, I wasn’t expecting it. It has been really nice, especially because I don’t have any school anymore. I graduated in the winter, so now I’m just playing baseball and hanging out with the guys and just getting to go to the field and work and just play baseball. It’s weird not doing school, but it’s been a lot of fun.
TSD: Do you model your game after anyone? And if so, who and why?
TT: There are players I like watching — I like watching Charlie Blackmon, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts. Those are all guys that I really enjoy how they play the game, but I wouldn’t say that I try and model myself after anybody. For me, it’s just putting in the work and letting my work ethic speak for itself — and I’m just going to be me and play like me. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what some of the major league players or other guys do, because there are a lot of guys that I look up to and want to play like — but I don’t necessarily model my game after anybody. I just put in the work, put in the time, and then the results are what happens.
TSD: Do you have a pregame routine or any pregame rituals?
TT: I like to do the same stuff every day, but it’s not anything crazy. I don’t have any serious superstitions. I just like to hit before we have pregame meal and then eat with my teammates, and then do batting practice like normal. And I always like listening to music before the games, just to try to lock in. But I don’t do anything crazy. For me, the biggest thing is just relaxing — I try to be stress-free and get locked in for the game by not overthinking, not overstressing about whatever has happened that day. It’s just about trying to lock myself in for the game.
TSD: Do you have a favorite team to play against?
TT: Wow, interesting question. I mean, playing Cal is always fun because they’re considered rivalry. I actually know a couple of guys from that team, too, so it’s always nice to play against them, see them and say what’s up. I don’t really focus on having a favorite team to play against. Right now, I’m just enjoying getting to be out there and playing, especially with what happened with COVID for the past year and a half or so now. Just being able to go play anyone has been amazing because I wasn’t really sure if or when we were going to get to play. So I’m just grateful for that more than anything. I mean, over the years, I’ve had a lot of good games against a lot of different teams, or a lot of fun games against a lot of different teams. Just being able to play is what I’m focusing on at this point.
TSD: Speaking of that, do you have some favorite games or moments from games that have stuck with you?
TT: Sure. As a freshman winning the Pac-12 championship was incredible just because of the drama. We were ahead late in the season, and then we struggled down the stretch, but we were able to pull it out on the last day, and I’ll never forget celebrating with those guys on that team. I had a walk-off home run as a freshman in our eighth or ninth game — I’d never done that in my entire life, and to have that be my first college home run was incredible. I hit a home run against Arizona State as a sophomore in the ninth inning — not a walk-off home run, but basically one that put us ahead three to two — we hadn’t scored the entire game until that point — that was another great memory. And then of course winning the regional, because our team had kind of struggled to get over the hump. We hosted for a couple of years in a row, but we hadn’t made it out. And so to do that with a group of guys that had been working toward that for many years was another just incredible memory and something that I’ll never forget.
TSD: You talked about favorite parts of your Stanford experience on the field — do you have a favorite part of your Stanford experience off the field?
TT: I think just getting to know a lot of people around campus and making relationships with friends and with professors and just getting to go here. I don’t take for granted waking up every day and knowing that I go to Stanford or that I’m so lucky to get to do that — you know, when you’re biking around campus and there are bikes everywhere and stuff like that, just little things. But I would say the relationships and just getting to know a lot of different people from different backgrounds around campus and getting to take a lot of different interesting classes that I was passionate about. Just generally getting to appreciate being in such a special place is what I would say.
TSD: Have you faced any unanticipated challenges that you’ve had to overcome?
TT: Yeah, I dislocated my shoulder sophomore fall, and then recovering from that was probably the biggest athletic challenge that I’ve faced: I had a good freshman year, and then I hurt my shoulder, then struggled, and then had surgery on my shoulder after my sophomore year. Came back, still struggled. So that was probably the biggest challenge for me. And I’m glad that I had such supportive teammates and my family behind me that stuck with me, as well as my coaches, too. Because that was not easy. It wasn’t easy getting hurt. I’d never really had a major injury until that point, and dealing with it was something new to me. It was tough working through, but thankfully, I made it through and again, I’m just thankful to be back for this year and playing and enjoying it and having a lot of fun.
TSD: What are your goals for this next chapter of your life now that you’ve graduated?
TT: I’m hoping to get drafted after this year at some point and start a career with baseball. That’s always been a goal of mine, especially since I came here. But again, we have a lot of unfinished business for me on the field here to take care of before that can happen. So, I’m not looking ahead. Again, trying to really just enjoy being on the field with my teammates and enjoying the Stanford experience, as much as I have left — which is really little, still crazy to think about. But yeah, I hope to start a professional baseball career after this, hope to get drafted and see where that takes me.
TSD: What are your remaining goals for yourself this season?
TT: I think they’re team goals: we want to get to Omaha, we want to compete for a College World Series title — and I think we have the guys to do that, and it’s exciting because I feel like that’s part of our team culture, having that standard that we want to be the best. So I’m just looking forward to continuing to work toward that. I think that’s what our team goal has always been. And there are a lot of smaller goals along the way: winning a Pac-12 championship, winning a regional, all that stuff. Those are my goals at the moment. I’m focused on helping my team win every day, and then working toward those goals one at a time.
This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.