Entering his junior year at Fox Lane this month, Michael Lombardi has erased any question about where he will be playing college baseball.
Lombardi, a middle infielder and pitcher for head coach Matt Hills’ Foxes for two years already after he broke in on the varsity as a freshman, made it official during the last week of August that he would be headed to New Orleans in two years to join the Green Wave.
“I am really excited,” Lombardi said.
The recruiting process has been different this year because of the pandemic. Few, if any, athletes have been able to make in-person visits to college campuses since last March. Fortunately, there are virtual tours and Zoom calls that can be made. They are as close to the real thing as possible at this time.
“I did a couple of virtual tours of the campus with the coaching staff and I did get a good feel for it,” Lombardi said. “The coaching staff and the players were all very welcoming and it felt like a real family atmosphere, so it made my choice rather easy.”
Lombardi was also recruited by several Ivy League schools. “Tulane actually came into the picture late,” he said.
Lombardi was recruited by Tulane as an infielder and pitcher. That’s fine with him because he will do whatever is asked of him to help the Wave win. “Wherever they feel I can make an impact, that is where they will put me. When I go down there, I just want to help the team win in any way that I can,” he said.
As a pitcher, Lombardi feels that he has made big progress over the last two years.
“I have gained velocity, I think my control has improved and my mechanics have also gotten much better over the last couple of years,” Lombardi said. “I like to pound the zone and challenge guys with my fastball. I can get my breaking ball over for strikes and I like to work quickly.”
His progress on the mound can be attributed to working with Hillis, as well as his travel team, Team City.
As an infielder, he described himself as steady and reliable.
“In the infield, I am the guy that will do whatever it takes to win a game,” Lombardi said. “I can get that two-strike hit for you, steal a base or make the play in the field. I am not the flashy type. I just go out and make the play.”
Lombardi has been playing baseball for as long as he can remember.
“We have photos of me as a little guy with the plastic glove on my left hand and the ball in my right hand,” he said.
Lombardi worked his way up through the Bedford/Pound Ridge Little League program, coached by his father, also named Michael.
“I owe a lot to my father who coached me all the way up,” he said. “And I owe a lot to coach Hillis, who is super-inspiring and a great motivator. When I was a freshman on varsity and going through some rough spots, he just kept reminding me to keep working and that I would eventually break through.”
Lombardi continued, “Playing at Fox Lane, everything starts with the coaching staff. They have brought a culture of winning to the program. When I was younger, I would go and watch guys like Aaron Winkler and Richard Slenker play and it was incredibly inspiring to see those guys develop and go on to play at such a high level.”
Winkler played D-1 baseball at the University of Richmond, while Slenker was a standout at Yale University.
“I knew I wanted to be that next guy from Fox Lane to play D-1 ball,” Lombardi said. “The coaching staff is always pushing us to be the best.”
With two years remaining at Fox Lane, Lombardi’s goal is to win Hillis a sectional title.
“We have been ultra-competitive for quite a while now, and it is time we win a sectional title,” he said. “Before I was recruited, I was focusing on my performance and how I could impress the coaches, but now I can concentrate on winning the section and then helping Tulane.”
Tulane plays baseball in the American Athletic Conference. Last spring, prior to the season being halted because of the pandemic, the Green Wave were 15-2 under fourth-year head coach Travis Jewett.