Like a modern day Paul Bunyan, Nathan Minnich has carved out his own legend with his mighty swing, that in time will only exaggerate across this region.
The burly first baseman became the first ever baseball player drafted out of Division 2 Shepherd University when the Red Sox snagged him in the 8th round of the 2012 entry draft.
“I’m honored to be the first one,” said Minnich, winner of the 2012 Tino Martinez Award as the best baseball player in Division 2.
“I think it’s a huge deal for me and the university because hopefully it’ll get their name on the map and give the guys behind me a better chance to get picked up, as well as bring better guys in.”
It was Minnich’s eye-popping numbers that led scouts to the banks of the Potomac River.
As a senior he set single-season school records for batting average (.487), home runs (21), RBIs (72), runs (69), walks (67) and games played (52).
He had 58 home runs in his four-years with the Rams, averaging one long-ball per every ten at-bats in his career.
“I don’t go to the plate trying to hit home runs, I just try to hit the ball hard and I’ve been blessed with being able to hit it over the fence,” said Minnich. “I’m just going to try to keep doing that.”
In baseball’s post-steroid era, his 6’3”, 240 pound frame is a throw back to sluggers of yore, lending to the legend he cemented, which led to him being honored by the Hagerstown Suns, a Single-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
Located just twenty minutes from Minnich’s hometown of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, the Suns came to him prior to the draft asking if he would be interested in coming out to the park to sign some autographs.
Minnich figured it would be a 30 to 45 minute signing session after which he would enjoy a night of baseball.
But prior to his scheduled appearance the Red Sox came calling via the draft and his legend echoed louder across the valley.
“I signed autographs for 3 to 4 hours,” said Minnich. “It was hectic. I probably only got to watch an inning and a half of the game itself.”
Minnich hopes to return to Hagerstown as a player should his career progresses in the right direction. The Suns play in the South Atlantic League (SAL), where the Red Sox Low-A affiliate, the Greenville Drive, reside.
“A lot of people were hoping I’d get picked up by the Nationals,” said Minnich. “I was like, “Boston does have a team that will go there and play and you will get an opportunity to come and watch me.”
“I’ve always thought that I could definitely play here [on the next level].”
Minnich faces a big learning curve on his current level as he begins his pro career with the Lowell Spinners.
It was a rough beginning for Minnich who struck out in his first three at-bats in Monday night's season opener, before a hit-by-pitch saved him from the dreadful golden sombrero in his debut.
He did fare better in his second game, notching his first hit, a single to right field in the fourth inning against Connecticut.
Right now, the lights in Hagerstown and the echoes of Shenandoah Valley seem light years away from Lowell.
Here legends are not simply born; they are made, one at-bat at time.
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