Throwing out the first pitch gets a lot of attention, but what about the last one?
In Spartan baseball, that understated honor has often been held by redshirt senior Chad Sykes, who currently also holds the best earned run average (ERA) in the nation in Division I baseball, at 0.74.
The relief pitcher is a self-described closer, a role he enjoys – and excels at. You’ll see him throw in the later innings, as the Spartans are set for a win and all that stands in the way is a few outs.
He is 21st nationally in hits allowed per nine innings (5.77) and is 25th in saves (10).
A Golden Chain Honor Society member, Sykes studied in the Bryan School and earned his undergraduate degree in business administration in 2018 but had to miss a year of play when he tore his UCL and had Tommy John surgery.
This past fall, he returned to UNC Greensboro as a master’s student in I.T., and as team captain. He also returned with greater strength from his recovery year workouts and at least a five-mile increase in his throwing speed.
“Now, I’m throwing 90 to 94 miles an hour,” he says.
Before you head out to the Spartans’ final home games of the season tonight and tomorrow, enjoy the interview below with Sykes about his experience as a student-athlete at UNCG.
How has your experience been at UNCG in general?
The campus community is great. All my professors have been phenomenal. All the events, I love, like Homecoming. Walking around campus is always cool, seeing people every day. My freshman year I lived in the Quad – awesome. The environment was super cool. I loved living there with my team, and a bunch of other people I met. I’ve met some of my best friends here playing baseball. That was one of my favorite things about college, getting close to those guys, seeing them every day on the field and in the classroom. But it’s also been great being around so many different people and interacting with them. I loved going to the Caf, and I still eat at the EUC pretty frequently. And now, even things like Old Town and Yum Yum, having those next to campus. I think it’s phenomenal.
How have you maintained your concentration as a student-athlete on the field and in the classroom?
You almost have to have two different buttons to push. When I’m on the field, I try to completely not think about school. And at the same time when I’m class, I try not to think about baseball. So, while I’m in class I’m just like any other student, and I do everything they do. And baseball is the same way.
Describe a favorite memory from your undergraduate study at UNCG?
The biggest class project I remember doing was my first semester here, in an English class. There was a huge portfolio. Obviously, your first semester in college is a little different than your other semesters, and I wanted everything to be perfect. I think I still have that portfolio, with four or five papers – it was one of the things I was most proud of. I learned a lot about time management doing that project, because you can’t do that kind of thing at the last minute.
What’s your experience been like in grad school so far?
It was definitely not the easiest route, but I’ve really enjoyed it – seeing the way our world is pushing towards technology. Coding was over my head – I thought so, at least. So, last semester in my coding class, I spent three hours a day on it, and I finally started to understand. When I first looked at it, I had no clue, but my professors Dr. Rahul Singh, and Dr. Gupreet Dhillon have been great supporting me, and understanding my schedule with baseball.
Tonight, UNCG Baseball is up against Wofford for the second game in the final home series of the season, after the Spartans earned a 1-0 victory last night, with Sykes getting the save. The team is at 33-16 overall and is 24-5 at home. Admission is free and the game begins at 6 p.m.
Visit the UNCG Baseball homepage for more updates about the upcoming SoCon tournament.
Story and interview by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications, and Carlos Morales
*Story updated for accuracy 5.17