By Taylor Viles – Print Sports Editor
Joe Sullivan (‘20) is a baseball player. His career is a love story made possible through happenstance, luck, and sheer want. Lasers will remember him as a leader on the baseball team for five seasons who was a powerful left-handed hitter and a cannon to second base from behind the plate.
“He puts everything into everything,” said Lasell head coach Bill Uberti. “Everything matters for him.”
His baseball story starts like many others with t-ball in his hometown of Sandwich, MA. Then there came Sandwich Little League, Babe Ruth League, American Legion, and Sandwich High School.
At that final destination, Sullivan connected with Erin Gillooly, his athletic trainer through high school. Gillooly has continued to help Sullivan find multiple opportunities both in baseball and the professional world after their initial introduction.
Gillooly was the athletic trainer for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod Baseball League when they first met, a position she held for more than a decade. In 2014, she asked the young Sullivan if he was interested in becoming a game day operations intern with the team. He was already a fan of the league growing up, attending Cotuit Kettleers games with his grandparents, so he eagerly accepted.
The Cape League provides high-level college athletes an opportunity to showcase their abilities to scouts up-close on high school fields on Cape Cod every summer.
Sullivan was 16 during his first summer with the Harbor Hawks. “I thought it was the coolest thing in the world,” he said. “They’d let me shag [balls] and hang out with the players pregame.”
Early into his second summer, Sullivan was asked to bullpen catch because the team was shorthanded at the position. He was an outfielder in high school who was over six feet and weighed no more than 165 pounds, not the ideal body type to catch 90-plus mph fastballs from future major league prospects. But always looking for opportunities to progress, Sullivan accepted the position. “I didn’t realize at the time I was agreeing to be a catcher for the rest of my career,” he said.
Sullivan headed to Auburndale for his first year at Lasell after his third summer in Hyannis. He chose the small college because of its sports management program, its proximity to Boston, and of course, the offer to play collegiate baseball.
According to the Lasell athletics website, he played in 24 games over his first two seasons as a Laser hitting in the high .200s. But it was during his junior year when he broke out. Sullivan hit .354 in 33 games, hitting the first four home runs of his entire life while collecting 29 RBI.
He maintained his commitment to the Cape League through the summer of 2019 and for the third time, his job title with Harbor Hawks became redefined. Near the end of the summers of 2017 and 2019, respectively, Sullivan was given the opportunity to sign a temporary contract to suit up as a member of Hyannis as a player.
The majority of players on Cape Cod hail from Division I institutions, but Sullivan was in the right place at the right time.
As a rising sophomore on Cape Cod, Sullivan received one at-bat working a full count on eight pitches. He struck out, but it was to a player who was drafted in the second round of the following year’s draft to the New York Yankees, showing the talent to go through Cape Cod. Two seasons later Sullivan got two more at-bats. Although nothing statistically amounted from these opportunities, Sullivan became the first and only Laser to appear in a Cape League game.
“It doesn’t really get much better than a guy like Joe in terms of leadership and work ethic,” Uberti gave as a possible reason for Sullivan’s all-around baseball dominance.
Gillooly, who has known Sullivan as long as most, says she had no doubt he would achieve whatever he wanted in collegiate baseball. “You can see the fire in his eyes and how happy he is on a baseball field,” she said.
His senior and graduate seasons at Lasell were marred by COVID-19 and injury. Only five games were played in spring 2020, per the Lasell athletics website and Sullivan hit .389 picking up right where he left off as a junior. In 2021, he experienced some trouble at the plate only mustering a .232 average and 16 RBI.
Once his collegiate career came to an end, Sullivan wanted to prove one more thing before moving on from high-level baseball competition: try to play for a professional team. “I always wanted to play professional baseball,” he said. “After freshman and sophomore year of college, I knew I wasn’t gonna play in the major leagues. But there was still that door to play indy ball.”
Sullivan was made aware of a tryout for the Frontier League, an independent baseball league. He attended Lasell graduation in May and got on a plane the next day to fly to Cleveland for tryouts. He was called back for day two and made it through a grueling 30-inning game. He was drafted by the Evansville Otters and collected his first paycheck to play professional baseball.
On the second day of the preseason, Sullivan stepped on a hidden sprinkler head and sprained his ankle. He was placed on the injured list where he remained until his eventual release. But he regrets none of it. “I…made the most of it,” said Sullivan. “I would’ve beat myself up for the rest of my life if I didn’t take that chance to see if I could make a professional team… Your career is what you make of it.”
Sullivan made it further than even he thought possible, and unlike many, he knew when to stop. “I’m proud of my career,” he said. “If you knew me five years ago, you would not have expected the career I had, even at Lasell.”
Always thinking ahead, Sullivan was ready for his next move as soon as he received word of the release. He had decided he was ready to pursue his professional career as a content creator. His old friend Gillooly had taken over as the athletic trainer for the Bourne Braves of the Cape League, so he gave her a call. She arranged for Sullivan to work as the Head Social Media Intern for the team during the summer of 2021, bringing Sullivan back to the fields he had frequented since his childhood.
He picked up a camera for the first time at Bourne’s first practice this past summer working nonstop posting to the team’s social media accounts. “I love the game, I love playing it and I love promoting it on social media,” said Sullivan. “That’s what I want to do. I want to work for a major league team.”
He spent the summer applying to jobs and, although not a professional team yet, Sullivan landed an opportunity as Athletic Communications Assistant at Boston College. The job is technically a paid internship that will expire just before the summer, but Sullivan is hoping he can either be hired in a full-time role at the college or at least stay in the area, he says.
When asked what has led to his early professional success, Sullivan said, “being an outgoing person and not being afraid to make connections… It’s not a bad thing to just say hello to people.”