Thomas Sautel’s college baseball journey has veered in unexpected paths and has put him up against some unique circumstances. He first arrived at Indiana Wesleyan University for the 2015-16 academic year. The head coach he signed to play for was gone before Sautel made it there. A year later he was essentially cut from the team. He struggled to find a new home during the spring/summer of 2016 before Concordia entered the picture.
Once here in Seward, more dynamics out of Sautel’s control intervened. After an all-conference season in 2018, Sautel was hit by a pitch in batting practice, injured his hand and was forced to miss the entire 2019 campaign. Undeterred, he redshirted and returned for a fifth year in 2020. Yeah well, you know what happened.
“No. 1 is just my faith in God,” Sautel explained in describing his thankfulness in spite of the odd set of occurrences. “Everyone is going to get tested in different ways. You have to be thankful for the opportunities you have. The thing that made it easier to get through the ups and downs are the experiences that I did get to have. It comes back to my teammates. They were incredible. Coach (Ryan) Dupic and the culture here is a big reason.”
For the native of Littleton, Colo., Concordia became the oasis that Sautel had been seeking in a college. After biding his time as a backup on the 2017 GPAC championship team, Sautel won the third base spot in 2018 and slashed .371/.441/.522 (BA/OBP/SLG) with 13 extra base hits and 40 RBIs while earning second team all-conference accolades. Sautel had moved over to second base this spring for a team that believed it was just beginning to hit its stride when the rest of the season was called off.
Though the ending did not play out as hoped, Sautel will carry with him plenty of positive memories from his time as a Bulldog. His story is one of those special ones that comes about within programs that have special things transpiring within them. There had to be a reason why Sautel was steered in this direction.
“I was looking for a place to play. I think there was a month left in the summer until school started,” Sautel said. “I’m getting a little bit worried at that point that I’m not going to have a place to play. Thankfully Coach Dupic reached out to me along with a school in Oregon. I took my visit to meet with Coach Dupic. It was pretty easy from there. He sold the program to me and what he had to offer as a coach. It’s something that’s very hard not to buy into.”
The uplifting culture and sense of team that Sautel felt here also had him buying in on a return to Concordia for the 2019-20 academic year even though he had already earned his undergraduate degree in business administration. Now he’s close to completing a master’s degree in business administration. He also got 21 additional games with his teammates.
“It was an easy decision,” Sautel said. “Because of the state of the program. We had a lot of guys coming back. There was just no way I was going to miss out on that last year of playing baseball and being with the program we have. This year we wanted to take another step. I didn’t want to miss it. That’s what brought me back.”
Dupic was happy to accommodate Sautel’s return this spring. Dupic saw enough from Sautel back in the fall to re-insert him into the middle of the lineup in 2020. Said Dupic prior to the start of this season, “I expect he’s going to have a really good season for us. He’s a terrific kid. He’s exceptionally accountable. I don’t spend one second thinking about what he’s doing. He’s always on top of things and just a great kid.”
Dupic learned of Sautel via a coaching contact that came from Dupic’s time at Buena Vista University. Prior to the injury in 2019, Sautel was looking like someone capable of a monster senior year. “Things aren’t fair sometimes,” Dupic said. “It’s not a contest, but when I think about the seniors moving on I feel as bad for him as anybody. Heading into the 2019 year he was hitting as well or better as anybody in our program. The way he handled the injury was awesome. He works so exceptionally hard and is so detailed in what he does. If you could copy that part of Thomas and put it into everybody you would.”
A mild-mannered, lead-by-example type, Sautel had hopes of swinging a big stick as he had in 2018. Some may not know that Sautel can also swing a big kick. A long-held pastime that has run alongside his passion for baseball is his practice of taekwondo, something he says he started at the ripe age of two. His aunt and uncle own five taekwondo schools in the state of Colorado. Says Sautel, “I’ve had some pretty cool experiences with it as far as traveling to other countries for tournaments.”
Born in Laramie, Wyo., Sautel is back in Littleton at this time. He never had a clue that Seward, Neb., would be part of his journey, so there may be another unexpected turn in the moments that lie ahead. Ideally, Sautel would love for his passions of baseball and business to intersect in his professional career.
Whatever the case, Sautel knows that his experiences as a Bulldog have prepared him well. He never got the senior sendoff he expected, but Sautel isn’t someone who is going to focus on the negative.
Says Sautel, “I keep coming back to it – I’ve seen and I’ve learned how important it is. Having a quality culture from a team, a workplace or individual perspective is huge. You have to really believe in what’s important to you and make sure you live it out and stick to it. I’m definitely going to bring that into my life after college. When you have the right culture you can really accomplish some incredible things.”