Jan. 6, 2014
By Jerome Boettcher l Subscribe to Commodore Nation
During the 2013 season, Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin called right-hander Carson Fulmer out of the bullpen 26 times. Only closer Brian Miller made more appearances.
Fulmer was asked to perform in a variety of situations—middle relief, pick up a five-out save, wiggle out of a jam in the ninth.
Fulmer even showed he could go the distance with more than 10 innings of scoreless ball in two NCAA Tournament games. In a Super Regional, he entered in the third and held Louisville to just two hits over the next 5.1 innings in Vanderbilt’s final game of the season — one day after a stretching band snapped off his foot and injured his eye.
He never looked like a freshman during a season that garnered Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball.
And Corbin never viewed Fulmer as a rookie.
“I think he is an old soul,” Corbin said. “In my eyes, I had enough trust in him. I trusted how he was going to act on the field. I never doubt him. He is a very, very unusual kid. There is just not many like him.”
Art Fulmer Sr. noticed unique characteristics about his son at a young age.
He remembers watching tee-ball and while the rest of the 5-year-olds picked dandelions and played in the dirt, Carson stayed observant and focused.
“I remember how serious he took it,” Art said. “Other little kids would be sitting around in the field and looking around. To Carson, it was a commitment. It was almost funny.”
He fell in love with baseball when he picked his brother’s plastic wiffle bat and ball at the age of four. He earned a black belt in taekwondo before he turned 10—“I definitely got self-discipline,” he said. He impressed—and, according to Art, almost drove them crazy—his coaches and teachers with the constant ‘“Yes, sirs” and “No, sirs.”
And when it came time to visit colleges, Carson decided to make most of the trips on his own without his parents in tow.
“I’ve always been impressed with Carson and his maturity,” Art said. “Even when he was just a little tiny kid. He’s always been sort of a natural leader. I’m often amazed at Carson because I ask myself, ‘How did he become the person he is?’”
The root of that growth can be linked to growing up as the youngest of five children—most of whom had left the house by the time Carson was born.
Carson already has four nieces and nephews and looks up to his siblings, Kelly, 49, Art Jr., 36, Amy, 34, and Drew, 25.
“They were really involved with me when I was growing up,” Carson, now 19, said. “They were parent figures, too. Growing up I would see some of things they would do, learn from some things and (they) just gave me some advice when I needed it.”
Art Sr. is an accomplished attorney in Florida with more than 41 years of experience, including serving as the state’s assistant attorney general. The former CPA currently runs his own practice with Art Jr. in Lakeland, Fla.
With a father with a busy career, Carson says his father and mother, Kandi, implemented discipline but weren’t “on him.” They allowed him to learn life’s lessons at his own pace.
“What is special was that he really wasn’t pressuring me on anything I didn’t want to do,” Carson said. “He had me take things into my own hands, learn from my own mistakes.”
And make his own decisions.
He took a proactive approach to the recruiting process. He wrote letters, sent emails and put in the phone calls to college coaches if his fastball didn’t do enough to put him on their radar.
“I knew I wanted to play baseball in college,” he said. “So I did whatever I needed to do in order to build relationships.”
When Carson visited Vanderbilt before his junior year of high school, he did so alone.
This struck Corbin as unusual. He asked Fulmer what effect his parents would have in his college decision.
“He said they trust me to make the decision,” Corbin recalls. “After being around him for a full year I can see why. I would trust every decision that kid ever makes. You can go to bed soundly when you’re coaching a kid like Carson. He’s going to make great decisions. Premier pitcher with a premier mind.