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Rams' Minnich answers call to receive coveted Tino Martinez award

June 04, 2012|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com
  • Nathan Minnich's mind-boggling senior year at Shepherd University was capped when he was named the winner of the Tino Martinez Award.
Photo courtesy of Shepherd University

Nathan Minnich got an unexpected phone call that he was hoping for on Monday.

Usually, opportunity knocks, but for Shepherd University’s record-setting first baseman, a once-in-a-lifetime experience decided to give him the 4-1-1.

“I got a random number come up on my phone today,” Minnich said. “I picked it up and said, ‘Hello.’

“On the other side I heard ... ‘Nathan Minnich? This is Tino Martinez. I wanted to be the first one to congratulate you.’”

Congratulations were in order. Minnich had just won the 2012 Tino Martinez Award as the most outstanding player in Division II college baseball, and did it in a landslide.

“When he called me, I didn’t know what to say,” Minnich said. “There was no better feeling.”

Minnich, a Waynesboro (Pa.) High School graduate, didn’t have to say anything. He let his bat do all the talking to earn the annual honor.

Martinez played at Division II University of Tampa and went on to become an Olympian, a first-round draft pick and a major league all-star for Seattle and the New York Yankees.

Minnich was a top finalist for the award because he led NCAA Division II players in four offensive categories and was second in four others. He also rewrote the Shepherd record book with seven season marks and eight career records.

Minnich, who finished eighth in the Martinez Award voting last year, hit another home run with voters as he received the first-place vote on more than half of the ballots. He was also the top choice in an Internet fan vote.

Minnich probably knows how Green Bay’s Donald Driver felt during “Dancing With The Stars.”

“Everybody I talked to said ‘I voted for you,’” Minnich said. “They were saying, ‘I’m telling everyone I know to vote for you.’ It was crazy.”

 Crazy, maybe. But in a lot of ways, it was a no-brainer.

Minnich finished with a .487 batting average and had 21 home runs, 72 RBIs, 69 runs scored, 62 walks and 149 total bases — all Shepherd season records.

He led the nation in on-base percentage (.645), slugging percentage (.980), RBIs and walks per game (1.19) and was second in the nation in batting average, homers, homers per game (0.4) and walks. He was in the top five nationally in 12 categories.

Minnich hit .428 for his career while setting Rams career records in hits (250), runs (187), RBIs (206), home runs (58), grand slams (six), walks (136), total bases (463) and putouts (1,137).

Along the way, Minnich also stocked his mantle with honors.

He was voted the national player of the year by four other organizations. He is a two-time West Virginia Conference and Atlantic region player of the year and was selected to three all-region and four all-conference teams.

“Everything just happened to go my way,” Minnich said. “Baseball is a game that is built on failure ... I just didn’t have a lot of failure.”

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Minnich rolled up records and honors with relative ease. He used one basic goal to keep him going.

“I was just consistent. I didn’t let it all go because I was doing well. I was aiming to get the call from Tino Martinez. That’s what kept me going. This is pretty awesome.”

It is quickly becoming Minnich’s week. Now, after winning the Martinez Award, he will be waiting anxiously to see if he will be selected Tuesday during major league baseball’s amateur draft. Minnich said he was projected to go in the middle rounds of the 50-round draft, possibly between the fifth and 15th rounds.

“There are two big teams interested in me,” he said. “The Orioles were really excited and, lately, the Yankees are showing a lot of interest. The Red Sox were looking at me early in the year.”

On Wednesday, the honors will continue when the Hagerstown Suns host Nathan Minnich Night at Municipal Stadium.

“It’s all pretty exciting,” Minnich said. “It’s everything, but oh man, it’s mainly (Tuesday) with the whole draft thing.”

This time, Nathan Minnich will be ready for any random number that might pop up on his phone.

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