Lucas Baldin and his father had been practicing for hours. As his father rolled soccer balls for him to kick, tears began streaming down the 8-year-old’s face.
“Dad, I don’t want to do this anymore,” Baldin said. “I’m tired.”
Amid his tears, Baldin didn’t realize how much he would later appreciate that memory.
The two went for ice cream after practice, and the next day — gameday — he scored within moments.
“I hit it perfectly, top corner, two seconds into the game,” Baldin said.
For Baldin, now a senior midfielder at USF, that memory illustrates how diligence and family support can translate into fulfilling rewards.
He and his father, Emerson, began practicing Futsal, an indoor version of soccer, when he was 4 years old. They continued going to the pitch nearly every day until he was 11.
Baldin developed his country’s passion for soccer, saying Brazilians are competitive and intense when it comes to the sport, and he is no exception.
When he was old enough to go to school, he said he would daydream during class about playing soccer.
Every Saturday and Sunday, Baldin and his father would get to the games an hour early to kick around the ball. His dad worked with him tirelessly, pushing him to achieve his potential.
He embraces a similar mindset as USF’s team captain, encouraging his teammates in various ways to do their best.
“(Baldin) is a good example for the younger guys,” senior defender Wesley Charpie said. “He comes out, he does what he needs to do and the team can learn from that.”
In addition to leading by example, Baldin communicates with his teammates to help them reach their potential.
“You have different guys with different kinds of motivations,” Baldin said. “I learned how to talk to them. Some guys can take it a little bit harder, some guys like to be built up.”
Baldin has played around the world, which has helped him become a more effective communicator.
The Taubate, Brazil native moved to Mexico with his family when he was 13 years old. That’s when soccer became serious for him, he said.
Baldin played for the Cruz Azul Futbol Club’s Under-17 and -20 squads. He later played for the Deportivo Toluca Futbol Club’s Under-20 team for two seasons.
Now, the 23-year-old has a business economics degree from USF and is working on his master’s in marketing.
As Baldin traveled the world, he proudly carried the No. 10 jersey everywhere.
“In Brazil, everybody says the number 10 has a weight on it because some very good players played with the number 10,” Baldin said.
Players such as his idols, Kaka and Zinedine Zidane.
“All my life, I’ve been playing with the number 10,” Baldin said. “It was something that was built up with me. I love wearing it. I feel comfortable wearing it. I know it’s mental, but in soccer, numbers are important to players.”
Baldin has played in three different countries and has become fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English, making it easier to communicate with the various nationalities on his team.
“(Baldin) is able to merge the team,” coach George Kiefer said. “With him, we have 12 other nationalities on the team, and he’s able to blend with all of them, which helps bring everybody together.”
Though Baldin was out last season with an injury, he still helped keep his team together as the Bulls went on to win the AAC Championship.
During the summer, Baldin had groin and lower abdomen surgery. He worked through the rehabilitation program to be in shape for the start of the season.
In USF’s home-opener against Akron on Sept. 4, Baldin scored two goals, one of which came in the final 30 seconds of double overtime to win the match. His parents were there to share the moment.
“My parents hadn’t seen me play in two or three years, so it was very special for me to have them here to watch me play and to support me,” Baldin said. “For me to be able to score the winning goal, that was super special. I couldn’t describe it. It was absolutely an amazing feeling … They were really proud of me because of the goals and also because of the way I was pushing myself after the surgery.”
Baldin was named AAC Offensive Player of the Week for the first week of the season and is trying to propel his team to another AAC Championship, like his father pushed him during those days at the Futsal pitch.
Baldin and the Bulls (2-2) will host Brown (2-2) at Corbett Stadium on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.