Tom Lace's journey to Middlesex’s first team began almost with his first breath – thanks to his great grandad Arthur.
On the very day Lace announced himself to the world - May 27, 1998 - Arthur Harrison, an avid Middlesex fan, penned a letter to the county, enquiring whether his great grandson’s birthplace in Hammersmith qualified him to represent the Seaxes.
Much to the family’s surprise, it wasn’t long before they received a reply from the county’s then CEO, Vinny Codrington, confirming Lace’s eligibility.
Sadly, Mr Harrison didn’t live to see the now 21-year-old’s half-century on his first-class debut in Middlesex colours against Leicestershire at Lord’s last May, but Codrington’s reply still holds pride of place amongst the right-hander’s cricketing treasures.
“I’ve still got the copy of the letter Middlesex sent to Arthur,” Lace said proudly.
“The wording of it is brilliant; It was a very kind response.
“My great grandfather was old school and just wanted to check Hammersmith was within the Middlesex region.
“It is a shame he passed away 10 years or so ago, but it’s something my dad is very proud of and when I played the game against Leicestershire it meant a hell of a lot to him.
“It’s an interesting story and one I never really speak about, but it’s very cool.”
Nevertheless, Lace’s journey hasn’t been without its bumps in the road, with other sports and Middlesex’s arch-rivals threatening to steal away his affections.
A keen footballer, Lace was part of Chelsea’s youth set-up before, aged nine, Surrey were the first county to court his batting talents, albeit his dalliance with life on the other side of the River Thames was brief as he was soon released.
However, under the guiding hand of Tony Bradshaw at Sheen Park CC, Lace joined Middlesex’s junior ranks a year later.
Bradshaw would become Lace’s godfather as a result of such mentoring and the relationship continues to this day.
“We are still very close and I’m working with him at the moment,” Lace continued.
“I send him clips of what I’m doing, and we have Q&As and stuff.”
Lace played in the junior ranks and academy at Middlesex alongside Max Holden and Robbie White, both of whom are currently holed up with him at Middlesex’s club-owned house in Edgware for the duration of the coronavirus lockdown.
The aforementioned first-team debut came when he was briefly recalled from a successful season-long loan at Derbyshire which yielded 780 County Championship runs, including three centuries, at an average of 43.
Lace candidly admits the journey north came at a time when his confidence was low, but he believes the unfamiliar surroundings forced him to let his batting do the talking.
“I went into that loan honestly believing I wasn’t good enough,” he said.
“It was something completely new to me and I remember rocking up with all their guys probably thinking ‘who the hell is this kid,’ and rightly so.
“It was one of these things where you earn respect the more you contribute. I think I had a much smoother ride as a loan player because a lot of your stock is placed on your output as a run scorer as opposed to anything else, so I’m lucky in a sense it went well.”
The global pandemic won’t allow Lace, placed on furlough along with his team-mates last week, to add to his Middlesex appearances until July 1st at the earliest.
But having signed a three-year deal in the winter he is more content than most to take a long-term view.
“As much as I’d love to be putting the pads on and playing at Lord’s, I have a sense of perspective,” he added.
“I’m a young pro, hopefully at the start of my career, so one year where you maybe don’t play to benefit the game in the long term is something I can deal with.”