Unlikely path leads Sim to USF

Three years ago, playing Division I baseball seemed unlikely for Eric Sim, with a path to USF anything but ordinary.

But USF’s junior catcher, who has worked his way into a starting role this season while excelling for the Bulls, has made big strides in a short time. Most of the things he had to push through came off the field, though.

After living in South Korea for 10 years, his life changed. His aunt, who lived in Canada, became too sick to run her restaurant, so Sim – then 10 years old – and his mother, Julia, moved to Abbotsford, British Columbia, to help her out. Soon after, they made it their permanent home.

“We really liked Canada, so we said let’s make it happen,” Sim said.

But Sim, who played baseball as a child, never gave up, doing club ball in the British Columbia Premier Baseball League (BCPBL) before landing at Colby Community College in British Columbia. He didn’t play in high school because there wasn’t a team.

In 2009 at Colby, which was just a few miles from home, he batted .342 for the Trojans and led the team with six home runs.

“Baseball helped me make friends and learn English,” he said. “When I first moved to Canada, the only words I knew were ‘hi’ and ‘bye.'”

Sim also took up rugby when he arrived in Canada, which he said helped with his conditioning.

“Rugby’s a physically demanding sport. It got me in great shape,” Sim said.

At 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, Sim said his trademark is his size, which gives him an advantage of blocking the plate with runners heading home.

“I’m a pretty big boy,” he said. “I’m used to tackling and running over people.”

Sim spoke in rugby terms, though baseball came first.

“I would miss rugby games for baseball practice,” Sim said.

It was USF assistant coach Bryant Ward who first received word from a friend about Sim’s strong defense, said coach Lelo Prado.

“His pluses are his defensive skills. He’s a great kid and he works hard. Offensively, he still has a little ways to go,” Prado said. “He’s just such a quality kid and that’s all we ask of him.”

But Prado new exactly what he wanted a year ago, when he recruited Sim, looking for someone to replace then-catcher Trey Manz, who was drafted last season.

Sim, an unknown in the offseason, has since worked his way into an everyday starter for the Bulls, sitting atop the Big East standings.

“They just told me I was going to have the opportunity to play every day, and that’s exactly what I wanted,” Sim said.

Teammates began noticing Sim’s ability this season, as he’s excelled behind the plate.

“He’s a hell of a catcher,” said junior pitcher Randy Fontanez, who threw a no-hitter against Notre Dame on March 26 with Sim catching. “Defensively, he’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

Sim, batting .253 on the season with 12 RBI and 14 runs scored, and USF (16-16, 8-1) head into a three-game series against Rutgers in New Jersey this weekend. Fontanez will take the mound Friday at 3 p.m. in the opener.

Behind the plate will be Sim, who once never dreamed of playing Division I baseball.

“To tell you the truth – to this day – I don’t know how I got recruited to USF,” Sim said.