Baseball, Sports

Eric Willis continues family tradition

Eric Willis took his brother Tyler’s old number after transferring to Wartburg from St. Bonaventure in New York. Both played under Athletic Director Rick Willis, their father. —Marketing & Communication

For the Willis family, Wartburg College has become a household name.

With father Rick Willis as the athletic director of the college, it is no surprise he has had not one, but two sons be part of athletics at Wartburg.

“We grew up around sports. Our dad would always go out in the backyard and throw the ball around and take us to the batting cages to hit,” Tyler Willis, a 2016 Wartburg graduate and Willis’ oldest son, said.

In the fall, Willis’ middle son, Eric, transferred from St. Bonaventure to Wartburg.

“I decided to transfer because I felt like Wartburg would be a better fit for me as a whole. St. Bonaventure was great and I learned a lot while I was there, but Wartburg just has a great combination of athletics and academics and it is so close to home,” Eric Willis said.

Eric said it was not an easy or quick decision to transfer to Wartburg.

“I had worked for years to get to the level [Division I] I was playing at St. Bonaventure so it was hard to leave a situation like that. I had made great relationships with my teammates and friends out there in New York so that was definitely tough too,” Eric said.

He said he was ready to make an impact on the baseball field and felt Wartburg would give him the opportunity.

Transferring meant it was easier for his family to watch him play as well, Tyler said.
“These last few years we’ve obviously both been playing at different schools and it’s been hard for me to see any of his games, so now I’m trying to make as many games as I can,” Tyler said.

“It’s a lot different. We certainly have a chance to see him a lot more. He’s essentially been gone a whole year with just talking and texting and it’s nice to have the opportunity to see him play and have him around,” Rick Willis said.

Eric said his family and friends have been supportive throughout the entire process.

“Transferring schools multiple times is never the ideal thing to do but they were always there with me in my corner. They are excited that they’ll be able to see me play more often,” Eric said.

When Eric transferred to Wartburg, he said he did not expect to pick up Tyler’s old jersey number from his time at Wartburg.

“All of the numbers I had liked or worn at my previous schools were already taken so I figured I would just roll with 24,” Eric said.

Tyler said his success during college and now his brother’s success is built off of the passion both of them have for the game.

“My brother and I would always go hit/workout together on our own as we got older,” Tyler said.

Eric said he is happy with how his year at Wartburg has gone so far and can see why his family loves Wartburg so much.

“Being connected to sports has kept us busy all the time and we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Tyler said.

You can catch Eric on the field in their next game on Tuesday.

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