Mom knows best, right?
Tommy Mace never thought he would make the varsity baseball team his freshman year of high school.
He never thought he would be getting phone calls from division one baseball programs.
He didn’t even think he would play college ball, but his mom always knew.
That phrase about motherly instinct seems to be true for Carolyn Mace Holley and her son.
It was a sunny south Florida day when Mace first picked up a baseball in their north Tampa backyard.
“You should see the look he gets in his eyes when he picks up a baseball,” Holley said. “Tommy just believes he’s going to be successful, and you can see that.”
She said she knew from the very beginning her son had a gift.
Although Mace’s parents divorced at a young age, he was still influenced by both.
Mace never had both parents in the stands growing up. Sometimes it was one. Sometimes it was none.
“I liked that because I didn’t want a helicopter parent,” Mace said.
He said it taught him to be self-sufficient and independent.
Holley worked long hours for an insurance company. She said it was hard, but it was a sacrifice that had to be made. She had to work. She had to put food on the table.
“There was a time when I didn’t see Tommy play for months,” Holley said. “He was playing travel ball, and I just couldn’t make those games.”
His parents were not there to fold all his laundry, do his dishes or make sure his baseball bag was packed for gameday.
“I’ve learned how to do things by myself,” Mace said. “I remember one tournament playing travel ball. We were in Nashville, and I didn’t have enough baseball pants. I had no choice but to do laundry. By myself.”
Holley’s husband retired in December, and now, the couple is spending the winter months in Daytona Beach, Florida. They have no plan other than to cheer on the Gators at every baseball game this season. That means following the team around the country for away games. Holley said she hopes they will end up in Omaha come summer.
Mace might just have the helicopter parent he said he has never had before.
Mace is 6-foot-6. Athletics must run in the family, right? When asked if Mace got his athletic abilities from his mom, Holley said, “Yes.”
Mace, on the other hand, let out a laugh.
“Maybe not at Tommy’s level, but I like to consider myself fairly athletic,” Holley said.
She said she played sports, but according to Mace, she did not. She likes to run and played basketball and softball as a child.
Even if her athletic abilities aren’t to credit for Mace’s success, she is the one who got him outside holding a baseball in the first place.
Mace said his mom always encouraged him to go outside. Play with friends. Go fish. Run around. Those were things Holley believed were important for a kid to grow up doing.
Mace said his parents were pretty “chill.” The only thing his mom didn’t allow was him walking in the house with dirty feet.
“That was her biggest pet peeve in the world,” Mace said.
Oftentimes, when Holley came home from work the neighborhood kids were in the backyard playing a pickup game. She said if they needed a pitcher, she would pitch. She was one of the kids, and she did not mind it. She would fill in any position that they needed – as long as they wiped their feet off before they came inside the house.
Holley can also take credit for Mace’s determination.
“Sometimes you have to put your head down and just grind,” Mace said. “My mom is a really hard worker that always made sure I was doing what I needed to do in order to be successful.”
He looks up to his mom, but she also looks up to him.
“I have to pinch myself sometimes,” Holley said. “How did I get so lucky?”
Mace never thought he would be a future first round MLB draft pick but look at him now. Baseball America has Mace ranked as the no. 38 right-handed pitcher in the list of 2021 Top 200 MLB Draft Prospects.
His mom always knew he was destined for greatness.