SPRING HILL — Not many people know that the best high school soccer player in Hernando County doesn't go to Nature Coast, Springstead or Central. Nor does he attend Hernando High or Hernando Christian Academy.
Born and raised in Spring Hill, Anthony Baumann lives off Mariner Boulevard and drives 51 miles every morning to Tampa. He has done that for the past four years, in order to further his soccer career.
And with a scholarship to Big East power Providence College in his back pocket, all of the time on the road has paid off.
Anthony, 18, has had a prep career that has netted him three state titles and Times Hillsborough County Player of the Year honors.
His journey began at age 4 on the youth soccer fields at Delta Woods Park in Spring Hill, playing for the Hernando Recreational League Roadrunners. Even that first year, his competitive edge stood out, especially to his parents, Michael and Lucille Baumann.
"By the time that first year was ending, the people who ran the league said they'd rather (Anthony) not come back and play the next year," Michael Baumann said. "He watched his brother play competitive soccer for so long, he didn't know how to slow down."
The story goes that Anthony would go to line up for a corner kick and the rest of the kids would bunch up in the box. The fields and nets are smaller for youth that age. However, Anthony "blasted it toward the box, and all the other kids just put their hands up and said that they didn't want to play anymore," according to his father.
"It was then that I knew we had something special on our hands," Michael Baumann said.
From there, Anthony went on to play for the First Hernando Youth Soccer Club and the Hernando Heat for the next five years until he was 10. It was then that his parents made the decision that he needed to cultivate his gift for the game with more advanced club programs.
Six years younger, Anthony grew up watching his older brother, Mike, star on the soccer field. He wanted to follow in those footsteps. Mike eventually played for the Wealdstone Soccer Club in England. He competed in the FA Cup (Football Association Challenge Cup) a few years ago.
The drive to be as good as, or better than, his brother pushed Anthony toward the best club team in the Tampa Bay area, the Clearwater Chargers. A natural ability to play the midfield position and pass the ball primed his meteoric rise through the ranks. He began ascending through multiple club teams in Palm Harbor, Tarpon Springs and Tampa before moving on to Clearwater during middle school.
All the while, he continued to attend school at Deltona Elementary, Chocachatti Elementary and Powell Middle in Hernando County, and his parents supported him on the soccer field by dropping him off at practice and games.
It was during middle school, and while Anthony was working out with the Chargers, that some friends already attending Tampa Preparatory School suggested the idea of enrolling there and joining the Terrapins.
The decision was going to be a major choice not only for Anthony, but also for the family. His father would have to drive him to school throughout his freshman year. It's something that sticks in the back of the young star's mind when he's on the field.
"I don't even know if I could do that for my kids," Anthony said. "Now it's on me to pay him back in the future. That's something that will always be there with me."
Once Anthony got to Tampa Prep, he was the distributor for the perennially dominant program. He led the state in assists as a sophomore with 31 and topped that total this year with 32. He captained the team both as a junior and senior. Even with the time consumed on the field and driving to practices all around the area, he maintains a 4.0 weighted grade-point average.
The Chargers made sure he got the exposure he needed to get to the next level with the U.S. Development Academy program. At multiple showcases, college coaches around the country got an opportunity to see Anthony play, and those chances netted scholarship offers from schools such as Old Dominion, the University of Central Florida, Stetson and Florida Gulf Coast, among others.
In the end, he chose Providence, in Rhode Island, for its small size, private-school feel and the camaraderie he felt with coach Chaka Daley after meeting with him at a camp earlier in the year.
Anthony is looking forward to the next step in his soccer career, and there will be a major upside to it.
"I really want to make an impact right away when I get there," he said. "Not many kids get the chance to do that. Of course, not having to drive an hour to school every day should help a little."