The playoff hopes of the Kansas City Royals are dwindling. For Double A Northwest Arkansas postseason baseball is alive and well. Before their series with the Tulsa Drillers kicked off, catcher Nick Dini took time to speak with KoK.
Nick Dini is a prospect that Kansas City Royals fans need to keep track of. The 2015 14th round pick out of Wagner College in New York has gotten off to a quick start in his professional career. In 64 games at the Double A level the 24 year old slashed .310/.381/.380.
Of course numbers do not tell you everything about a player.
Among the excitement of preparing for the Texas League playoffs Dini provided the opportunity for me to get to know him as a person. He was raised in New Jersey. Growing up baseball was not the only focus for Nick.
“Baseball was good.Its not big, every guy plays three sports. It’s not like it is now where kids are playing all year round. You played in the Spring and Summer, and then you played football or whatever else. We played everything.”
“I played three sports until I got to high school. I played football and baseball. After my sophomore year I decided to focus solely on baseball.”
Without any real interest from Major League teams Nick made the decision to attend Wagner and play at the Division I level.
“I got a scholarship offer and that’s where I went. It was great. College taught me how to grow up, it teaches you how succeed and how to fail…it teaches you about life. The whole college experience was really great.”
Dini played four years of college baseball before entering the 2015 draft.
“After my sophomore year I felt pretty good about where I was. My junior year I actually had a tough year, that was the first year I was eligible to get drafted and I think that got in my head a little bit. It was all I focused on.”
“My senior year came and I told myself ‘this could be the last year you play’. [I just tried to] relax and enjoy the ride. I had a bounce back year and was fortunate enough that the Kansas City Royals drafted me.”
After several pre-draft workouts there were multiple teams that were potentially showing interest in Nick. On draft day he got the call from the Kansas City Royals that they were going to take him in the 14th round.
“I didn’t know their interest level until they had drafted me. I’m thankful for it. Its been great.”
Nick has not made his first trip to Kansas City as of yet, although I am sure that will change in the near future. Even with that being the case, he had the opportunity with Northwest Arkansas this season to be around guys that had played at the big league level.
Two names that Kansas City Royals fans know are Hunter Dozier and Paulo Orlando. Dini did not pass up the chance to learn from their experiences.
“You pick those guy’s brains, you talk to them about baseball. You ask them stories like what getting that first call was like. They have a lot of experience, they’ve been around and played at the highest level of baseball. They have a lot of insight that they can give.”
"“I definitely, especially when Dozier was here, asked him a lot.”"
“It lets you know how close you are. Playing with guys like that you get the feeling like its getting close.”
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That opportunity could be here pretty quick for Nick Dini. In a couple of weeks he will have playoff experience under his belt. The Naturals currently hold a 2-1 series lead over the Drillers. For Dini he has a .273 BA with three runs scored, three RBIs and a homerun so far in the playoffs.
Regardless of the outcome of the Texas League playoffs both Dini and the Kansas City Royals already know what is coming next. For a guy who likes to let his play do the talking for him, he is going to be getting the chance to make a statement against top competition.
“After the playoffs I’m going to take a couple of weeks to relax. Then I’m going to gear up for and play in the Fall League. I expect to go in there and play against a bunch of very talented guys. You want to compete against the best and these guys right now are some of the best Minor Leaguers there are.”
“It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be a challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
With the Kansas City Royals preparing for a transitional period at the Major League level, prospects like Nick Dini are going to be presented with opportunities. The front office will be counting on young players to make the most of them.
The good thing here is that the organization has a system in place where players buy in.
“It’s a first class organization throughout. They make you feel like you are part of a family. You genuinely feel that with everyone from top to bottom. It’s fun to be a part of.”
If you take away one thing from this about Nick Dini, this is what it needs to be. “I just want to be known as somebody that does the right thing and works hard. I hope people find out more (about Dini) as I continue to move up and hopefully I one day get to Kauffman.”
You can follow Nick Dini @nickdini11