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Nov 18, 2020

Adam Hackenberg – Leading By Example

By: Jackson Sternberg

The following appears in the November issue of Orange: The Experience.

Clemson catcher Adam Hackenberg grew up in a football family and quickly found his role as a star middle linebacker. He used his experience as the captain of the defense on the gridiron and transferred it over to the diamond to command the Tiger defense from behind the plate.

“The positions are very comparable, mentality-wise. You have to be tough to be a linebacker, and you have to be a leader, both of which apply to catching. You have to be tough and take foul balls off your arm and not show any pain. Not that one mentality necessarily bred the other, but I think they’re certainly related.”

Despite not being a particularly loud leader, Hackenberg finds ways to inspire his team through example. One of his best friends on the team, Kier Meredith, shared an anecdote that displayed this exact ability in the third-year Clemson student.

“It’s a well-known thing that once we pull the tarp on the field, the first-year guys stake the tarp. A couple weeks ago, we finished pulling the tarp, and I left and called Adam to see where he was. He said he was still staking the field, and we almost got into a little argument because to him, that’s not a first-year job…it’s an everyone job.”

Hackenberg compared playing catcher not only to linebacker, but to the quarterback position in terms of controlling the field and making sure everything is running smoothly. Quarterbacking runs in his blood. Adam’s older brother, Christian, was a star quarterback at Penn State and went on to play in the NFL. He is now actually looking to begin a baseball career as a pitcher.

Originally, Hackenberg was dead set on following in his brother’s footsteps and playing linebacker at Penn State. However, during his sophomore summer, he began playing in local tournaments and showcases, and he made his way to the Black Bear Classic Showcase in Clemson.

“That’s when I first caught Coach (Monte) Lee’s eye. I’d never been to Clemson or really thought about it, but the day I was here, I thought it was awesome. They showed me the facility after the tournament and gave me a feel about how they did things, and I ended up committing two weeks after that.”

When the highly touted catching prospect arrived, he had the opportunity to learn behind Kyle Wilkie. He is very grateful for Wilkie as a mentor and cites him as one of the reasons he was so prepared to take over as the full-time starting catcher.

His great mentorship is not the only reason Hackenberg is the prominent figure in the locker room that he is. It is something that both he and Meredith claim comes naturally to him, and throughout the years, his leadership has been a skill that has only improved. His personality and character traits work beautifully to help him be the best catcher and leader he can be.

“I’ve always tried to carry myself with poise and consistency. I’m never too high or too low, and I’m not the ‘rah-rah’ guy who’s going to pump everyone up in the huddle. But I am the guy who will make sure everyone’s focused and knows what to do going into a game or a play.”

Hackenberg emphasized the importance of energy, but not energy in the sense of always being hyped up and loud. He sees energy as being laser-focused and intent on accomplishing the task at hand, and he sees it as his duty to ensure the rest of the team has that energy going into each and every pitch.

This spring, the backend of the Clemson battery can be found bringing his brand of energy to Doug Kingsmore Stadium as his Tigers look to compete for a College World Series championship.