HAGERSTOWN — Nathan Minnich spent Wednesday working the second most important stroke in his repertoire.
The Waynesboro (Pa.) High School graduate has already proven he can handle his baseball bat. On this day, he was showing his deft follow-through on his signature with a fountain pen.
Minnich had been scheduled to be at Municipal Stadium to sign autographs and be honored before the Hagerstown Suns’ game with Kannapolis for his record-breaking career as a power-hitting first baseman at Shepherd University.
The day ended up being so much more.
Now fans were getting the autograph of a budding professional baseball player.
“This is a dream come true,” Minnich said while sitting at a table in the stadium’s concourse. “This is what everyone wants.”
Minnich got everything he wanted — most of it coming in the last three days.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound first baseman won the coveted Tino Martinez Award — signifying the player of the year in Division II college baseball — on Monday. It was the fifth national player of the year honor won by Minnich this season after leading the nation in four offensive categories and ranking in the top five in eight others.
The end of his college career opened the door to a pro career on Tuesday, when Minnich was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the eighth round of the major league baseball draft. He signed his first autograph on Wednesday at midnight when Boston scout Jon Atkinson showed up on Minnich’s doorstep.
“He came in and had a contract,” Minnich said. “He was worth staying up for.”
The run of autographs didn’t bother Minnich — “I got used to signing a lot of them for people in my classes,” he said.
Fans and family from Shepherd and Waynesboro streamed through the gates to congratulate Minnich and see him throw out the ceremonial first pitch. After an eventful Tuesday, the theme changed.
“This is great that they put this all together,” Minnich said. “This is a perfect spot because it is right in the middle between Waynesboro and Shepherd to allow everyone to come.”
And many showed up just for the chance to see Minnich, shake his hand, get an autograph and tell him how proud they were of his accomplishments.
Minnich came dressed for the occasion, wearing his Shepherd No. 34 jersey and a Red Sox cap. Many of the fans came through the gates wearing a variety of Waynesboro, Shepherd and Red Sox gear carrying bats and tickets to be autographed. If they came empty-handed, Minnich provided a pile of photos of him in a Shepherd on-deck circle with a bat.
It was a photo taken while Minnich compiled a .487 batting average, 21 home runs, 72 RBIs, 69 runs, 62 walks and 149 total bases — all Shepherd single-season records. 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).
Minnich earned his stack of national and West Virginia Conference honors by leading Division II in on-base percentage (.645), slugging percentage (.980), RBIs and walks per game (1.19). He was second in the nation in batting average, homers, homers per game (0.4) and walks.
That was then. Now, it’s on to play for the Lowell Spinners in the half-season New York-Penn League. The season begins June 18.
“I don’t know when I leave, but they told me that I’m going to be their everyday first baseman,” Minnich said. “I said that was alright. It’s all good to me.”
In fact, it’s everything Nathan Minnich had signed up for.