Nick D’Agostino had to beg to get the ball.
Ever since he did, he hasn’t put it down.
D’Agostino is a junior on the Abraham Lincoln High School baseball team, and while he’s now an ace pitcher, he started his career receiving pitches. But after the Holme Circle resident asked his coach a few times, he got a new position.
“My grandfather used to take me to the park and he knew I liked baseball so he signed me up,” D’Agostino said. “I liked catcher, but it started to hurt my knees from playing it a lot. Then they moved me to pitcher after I asked a few times. More than a few. But soon after I did, I got better and better.”
Now he’s the ace of the Railsplitters’ staff.
Last year, when he was a sophomore, he showed flashes of being a top-notch pitcher in the Public League. He also had some help.
The Railsplitters used senior Kenny Brough as their ace a season ago, and he wasn’t just recording outs for Lincoln. He was also sharing whatever he knew with his teammates. And D’Agostino was his prized pupil.
“I learned so much from Kenny, from all the seniors,” D’Agostino said. “He taught me a lot about pitching, but he taught me other things, too. The biggest thing he ever taught me was how to be a better pitcher, mentally.
“Last year, I would get upset when things weren’t going well. When I wasn’t throwing strikes or guys were getting hits, I would get mad or upset and then I wouldn’t pitch well. It took me off my game. He taught me that if I didn’t worry about the last pitch and worried about the next pitch, I would be better off.”
That’s the exact approach D’Agostino is taking into his junior year.
And he knows it might not be the easiest year in the standings, but he’s optimistic.
Lincoln dropped its first seven games of the season but the Railsplitters rebounded to win their next two. D’Agostino believes the last few contests are something they can build off of. He also thinks that as the weather heats up, so will his team.
“We’re still a really young team, so I think we are only going to get better,” D’Agostino said. “We’re out there working Monday to Friday. And our coach has us really working hard. He makes sure we don’t get too happy when we’re doing well. He makes sure we always are working hard and always getting better.”
D’Agostino is taking the same approach.
As the top pitcher, the right-hander finds himself on the mound against the toughest teams on Lincoln’s schedule. That’s exactly what D’Agostino wants. And he knows that means he could see a higher earned run average because of it. He welcomes the challenge.
“I like being the ace, it makes me a better leader,” said D’Agostino, who plays third base when he’s not on the mound. “I just go out and try to throw the ball, locate my pitches and throw strikes.
“The best part of being an ace this year is the team around me. There are so many guys who make plays. We play really good defense. We have guys who want to win. I’m around the best guys. The team really plays hard. Our coach demands it, but I think these guys would play that way, anyway.”
D’Agostino knows he would.
And this year he’s working at being a complete player.
A capable hitter, D’Agostino started the season at the top of the lineup but has since moved down, settling in at eighth in the lineup.
“I like hitting wherever,” D’Agostino said. “I just go up to do my job. I don’t care if I have to sacrifice to get a guy over and give up an out if that’s what they want to do. They haven’t asked me to do that this year, but I’m sure they will. I’ve worked on that.
“And if I’m hitting second or hitting last, I just try to do my job. When I hit at the bottom (of the lineup), I can turn the lineup over. You get chances wherever they put you.”
He also wants to work on another key aspect of his game.
As the ace, even though he’s a junior, he hopes to become a leader for the rest of the players to look up to. He wants to do it, mostly because this year’s squad is young.
“We want to win, but we’re trying our best to just become better players, just play better baseball,” D’Agostino said. “I’m trying to be a player that others can come to if they need help. I had that and I still need it, but I want to be there to help guys. I want to be a leader this year and next year.”
And he wants to win now. And later.
“We’re getting better,” said D’Agostino, who also enjoys playing basketball. “We’re good, but we have a lot of work to do. We’ll do it. We’ll get better.”