Spinners outfielder and ‘diehard’ Red Sox fan Nick Longhi realizes a dream at Fenway
|07.14.14 at 9:20 am ET|
While he had never set foot in the Fenway outfield before Sunday afternoon, Spinners left fielder Nick Longhi handled baseballs that scraped off the Green Monster as if he had played the precarious position for years.
Mastering the Monster had already become second nature for the Springfield-born Longhi, as the self-proclaimed “diehard” Red Sox fan has seen a fair share of plays off the wall from watching games on TV.
“I’ve watched them my whole life, so you pick out some of the flaws after a few years,” Longhi said.
The 18-year-old outfielder, playing in his first season with Single-A Lowell, took part in the Red Sox‘ Futures at Fenway game Sunday, finishing the day 0-for-3 with a walk and one run scored in what was a 6-1 Spinners defeat at the hands of the Scrappers.
“It was a great experience,” Longhi said after the game. “Obviously a little disappointed at the outcome and what happened, but it’s baseball, we’ve got another game tomorrow and we’ve just got to come out and play hard.”
Playing in the ballpark of his favorite team was a dream come true for Longhi, who likely would have been playing collegiate baseball at this point had he not been drafted by Boston in last year’s draft.
Longhi, who was raised in Venice, Florida, but remained a Boston fan his whole life, was considered to be an early round pick in the 2013 draft after a stellar career at Venice High School, but he dropped down the boards due to signability concerns.
The promising outfielder was eventually taken in the 30th round by the Red Sox, who offered Longhi a $400,000 signing bonus in an effort to reel him in. The combination of the bonus bid and the chance to play for the team he followed his entire life made it an offer that Longhi couldn’t refuse.
“It was fantastic getting drafted by the Red Sox,” Longhi said. “It was late and a lot later than I wanted to go, but that’s the one thing that kind of took it away, was that my favorite team drafted me. I didn’t know when the opportunity would come again or if it would come again so I kind of had to strike when the iron’s hot. It gives you a whole new feel playing for your favorite team.”
Longhi’s first foray with Boston was rather unimpressive, as he hit .178 with one home run in 16 games with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox in 2013. Despite his poor debut, the right-handed hitter would not disappoint in his sophomore campaign with Lowell.
Entering Sunday’s game, Longhi was in the midst of a 14-game hitting streak -- the longest such streak for a Lowell batter since Luis Sumoza forged a 16-game streak in 2008. Longhi is currently tied for sixth in the New York-Penn League in batting average (.341) tied for fourth in doubles (9).
For Longhi and Lowell hitting coach Noah Hall, the young batter’s tendency to not overexert himself has been one of the main reasons for his success at the plate.
“I’ve just been hitting what they give me, they’re throwing it over the plate, I’m swinging at it. Whether it’s a breaking ball, a changeup, first pitch – If I can pick it up, I try to hit it,” Longhi said.
“This guy just has just a ridiculous knack for getting inside the ball,” Hall said. “I think that’s one, if you ask almost all hitters, if you’re going to say top-three things, staying inside the ball would be one of those three. He’s not afraid to go right through the middle, go the other way, and once in a while, he’ll turn on a ball too. … He doesn’t usually try to do too much. He’s definitely overswung at times — like he should, he’s 18 years old, he’s human — but for the most part, he stays within himself, he doesn’t try to do too much most of the time and I think that’s where he’s gotten a lot of his success.”
While Lowell is just a short-season Single-A club, Longhi is still very green when compared to his teammates, as he is currently the second-youngest player on the Lowell roster. When asked how he has been able to adapt so quickly to a league mostly comprised of players two-three years older than him, Longhi praised the Spinners’ coaching staff for helping to ease the transition.
“A lot is the coaching,” Longhi said. “The coaching is really good, the coaching really helps out. They teach you how to make those small adjustments, they teach you a lot here and I’m just looking forward to years down the road, but I want to enjoy each season.”
While Longhi has impressed many at the dish, he has yet to hit a home run this season. While looking at such a stat might raise concerns over Longhi’s potential as a power hitter, Hall defended Longhi, stating that power will come with more time and experience.
“I think he’s going to be a guy that you may not see it – you probably won’t even see it this year to be honest — and that’s OK,” Hall said. “I’ve told him that and he gets, he’s 18, he wants to hit home runs. You’ve got [Jordan] Betts, who’s got five [home runs], and [Sam] Travis, who’s just destroyed a couple balls, and he wants to be like them. And I’m like, ‘Hey, these guys are in their early 20s, these guys have been around a little longer, you’re young. Take your time … The home runs will come when they come. You can’t force it,’ because when you start forcing it, you’re going to lose that beautiful swing that he’s got.”
Hall added: “I just want him to stay where he’s at and as time goes on, he’ll learn and he’ll figure out what balls he can start turning on more and I see potential there for sure.”
Patrolling the Fenway outfield is quite a ways away for Longhi - who turns 19 on Aug. 16. However, for a kid who has dreamed of the opportunity to play baseball in Boston, Sunday’s game was an experience that Longhi will not soon forget.
“I remember when I was probably eight or nine years old and we were watching the Little League World Series and my dad was on the couch next to me and he said, ‘How would you like to play in the Little League World Series one day?’ and I was like, ‘Forget that, I want to play in the real World Series, man,’ ” Longhi said. “Just being at this ballpark right now and playing for this team, it’s something real special.”
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