Class of 2024: Jack Bulger’s life journey shapes him as a player and person

Hear Jack Bulger talk about his mentors and experiences by clicking through this Instagram scroller.


By Graham Hays

Jack Bulger, Class of 2024 (Harrison McClary/Vanderbilt)

Jack Bulger is almost certainly one of the only players in NCAA history who struck out on the first pitch he saw as a collegiate student-athlete. The first-year catcher wasn’t in the starting lineup on Opening Day in 2021. But when a teammate suffered an injury during an at-bat, coaches told Bulger to grab his batting helmet and get in there. Inheriting an 0-2 count, he dug in, watched a curveball break across the plate for strike three and trudged back to the dugout.

Ted Williams famously said baseball is the only endeavor in which a person can fail seven out of 10 times and still be a success. But strike three on your first pitch? That was a little ridiculous.

Fast forward to Vanderbilt’s most recent Opening Day, and Bulger found himself part of a different—and better—small club. There aren’t many seniors who hit the first pitch of their lineup’s season out of the ballpark—Vanderbilt’s first season-opening leadoff home run in at least 21 years.

Whether it’s starting more than 150 games for one of the nation’s best teams or balancing an economics major and minor in business in the College of Arts and Science and a digital fabrication minor through the School of Engineering, Bulger embodies what it means to never take an opportunity for granted.

“You can’t control the outcomes, but if you stay consistent in your routines and stay disciplined in what you do on a daily basis, then you’re going to be successful,” Bulger said. “Maybe not in the short run, but it’s going to play out over time. That applies to life. Whatever you do, if you’re consistent in how you operate on a daily basis, you’re going to be pretty good at what you do.”


Bulger grew up knowing he wanted a future in baseball. When he wasn’t on a field somewhere playing his own games, he was chasing foul balls and autographs at the minor league ballpark near his family’s home in Bowie, Maryland.

But he also learned from an early age that while everyone celebrates the big moments—the home run that brings a crowd to its feet or the professional contract that opens new doors—success comes from an unwavering, consistent and often thankless commitment to a process.

Jack Bulger played Little League baseball in Bowie, Maryland. (Submitted photo)

His preschool teacher was one of his earliest mentors, not just in the classroom but on the family farm she worked with her dad, a World War II veteran. Bulger’s parents often let him spend the day at the farm, watching his hosts feed the animals who depended on their care or, as he got older, helping them dig fence post holes.

Jack Bulger learned how to work with horses on his preschool teacher’s farm in Bowie, Maryland. (Submitted photo)

“I was a pretty athletic kid, and I’m just getting dominated over here by this little 110-pound preschool teacher who is just working her tail off every day,” Bulger recalled. “I told her I don’t know how she does this every single day. But she loves what she does.”

His parents, Chuck and Beth, helped him realize how success is a collaborative effort. Far from the stereotypical baseball dad, Chuck wasn’t an avid sports fan. But when he saw his son’s passion, he poured himself into research in a manner that would do any doctoral student proud. He arranged his work schedule to take the earliest shifts, rising well before dawn to clock out early enough in the afternoon to pick up Jack from school, take him to practice or games or just throw him batting practice.


Little wonder, then, that Bulger fell in love with Vanderbilt. The 2014 national championship first caught his eye—the stylish pinstripes, major-league prospects and College World Series glory. But the more he learned about head coach Tim Corbin, the more he saw a program committed to putting the process ahead of results.

“The culture of personal development, leadership development and a sense of belonging to a team is something that you can never get enough of,” Bulger said. “It’s being part of a group with one shared goal with so many like-minded individuals. You get so immersed in the group that you kind of forget about yourself. But that’s the best way to make yourself a better person.

“Looking back at it, I’m such a better friend, son, man, athlete from Vanderbilt from Coach Corbin, by learning from everything this program has to offer.”


Bulger traded cleats for wingtips in his final summer as an undergraduate, completing an internship and his Immersion Vanderbilt project with a New York hedge fund. Like the SEC Tournament that he and the VandyBoys won a season ago, Bulger said it was a hard-earned and unforgettable opportunity.

“Learning something new and being able to figure out a new environment, it was a nice little reset for me, and I think it helped me on the baseball field this fall too,” he said.

But for Bulger, the Vanderbilt experience isn’t solely about winning the SEC Tournament or experiencing an exciting job in finance. It’s about the process that leads to those results. It’s about learning.

Bulger didn’t need a second minor. He accomplished plenty as it was. But he’s always enjoyed DIY projects, always been good with the hands that so nimbly frame pitches. When he hurt his thumb, none of the available braces provided the ideal mix of protection and flexibility. So, he designed his own—a model he’s shared with fellow catchers and may one day market.

It’s why he added the digital fabrication minor through the School of Engineering: because the opportunity was there. If that’s your North Star in life, the prizes will come.

As he put it, if you’re consistent, and if you’re true to your principles, you’re going to be pretty good at whatever you do. No matter what happens in your first at-bat.



“Everything is more fun with others. The best part about being at Vanderbilt, being on Vanderbilt baseball, is being part of a team. Yes, we win a lot, and that’s obviously the goal. But if you told me about the score of a game against Ole Miss two years ago or four years ago, I’m not going to remember what I did. But I’m going to remember the time I spent with my teammates in the locker room after the game or the time we spent on Monday morning conditioning at God knows what hour. Those are the moments I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”


“Step by step, taking it one day at a time and not getting too ahead of myself. You obviously have a plan of what you want to do in your life, your season, your semester, but the only thing you can do at the present moment is accomplish the task at hand. Growing daily is a goal of mine. Learning about yourself can be hard, but it is really important to do.”


“Vanderbilt is more than a university. It’s a place and an environment to hone my leadership skills. It teaches you the joy of personal development and being part of a team. My idea of Vanderbilt is a collaborative space.”

Hear more from Jack in our Four with a ‘Dore series below!

Learn more about VU2024’s Jack Bulger via the Instagram link in our bio. @vandyboys

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