May 1, 2012

A long journey for Ammirati

For most prospects there is a straight path from high school to the college of their choice for four years.

But for some like Mississippi State junior catcher Nick Ammirati the journey has a few detours along the way. The Sparta, N.J., native is at his third school in as many years but seems to have found a home in Starkville.

"Life takes you in different paths," Ammirati said. "I chose Seton Hall my freshman year. I was just trying to stay close to home and they gave me a good scholarship. I played a lot but I just didn't think that I could reach my goals there and I wanted to get better. I went to Texas because I wanted to play in warm weather and get the southern schools to see me. Coach (Lane) Burroughs actually came to see the catcher for the other team but I had a great game and they offered me the next day and I'm pretty sure I took it the next day."

Ammirati played in 22 games as a true freshman for the Pirates making 18 starts behind the plate. In eight Big East starts, Ammirati batted .296 but decided to leave the program after one season and transfer to Panola College in Texas.

During his one year in the Lone Star State, Ammirati started 40 of his 50 games hitting .280 with 37 hits and nine RBIs. Since signing with the Bulldogs, the 5-foot-9, 198-pounder has appeared in 10 games and made three starts. Ammirati is 3-for-11 at the plate with a pair of runs batted in.

"I feel like I've grown every single year," Ammirati said. "You're freshman year is obviously a learning experience and you keep getting better. Once I got here I think I've made great strides as a player and as a person. I really like where I'm at right now and I'm trying to make the most of my opportunities."

Having played in junior college, the Big East and now in the Southeastern Conference, Ammirati is able to gauge how the talent in the SEC compares with other levels of competition.

"All Division I baseball is pretty competitive but the SEC is just another level," Ammirati said. "Just the pitching is really top notch. You've got guys coming out of the bullpen throwing 95. It just seems like everybody is throwing 95."

The on-field adjustments were not the only ones Ammirati has had to make since coming to State. He also had to get used to a different culture just as he has every step along the way since leaving the Northeast.

"It's definitely different but I've played everywhere," Ammirati said. "I've played all over the country from New Jersey to California. I like it a lot being able to meet all these new people and getting to experience everything. I feel like it makes you more diverse."

Ammirati also had a scholarship offer from Presbyterian but has enjoyed his experience in Starkville so far.

"This is a baseball school," Ammirati said. "The fans are great and that Left Field Lounge is awesome. I've been in the bullpen a lot and the fans are great out there."

Ammirati got his first extended playing time of the spring during the Diamond Dogs first road series at Southeastern Louisiana. He started the March 25th game and went 1-for-3 and drove in MSU's only run of the game.

"I was a little nervous the first inning," Ammirati said. "I was trying to do too much. I didn't make any errors or anything but they bunted and I threw it into centerfield but luckily the runner didn't advance. I was just trying to make some stuff happen. Coach Burroughs pulled me aside and told me to slow everything down and I'll be fine and not try to do too much. That's what I've been doing ever since."

Before his arrival at Mississippi State, Ammirati spend his summer with the Orange County Pioneers in the California Collegiate League where he hit .298 with three doubles and six RBIs and was selected to play in the All-Star game.

"It really helped me a lot and I really enjoyed it out there," Ammirati said. "California is awesome with the weather and the competition was also really good. (Adam) Frazier played out there too and had a really good summer. This summer I'll be playing in the Northwoods League and will be playing 70 games. Hopefully I'll get to play a lot and get even better."

Like most ball players, Ammirati's ultimate goal is to make it in professional baseball. But that is an avenue he has a little bit of experience in already.

Ammirati was drafted in the 46th round by the Florida Marlins in 2009 out of Seton Hall Prep.

"They drafted some catchers before me and all of them signed," Ammirati said. "I was more of a draft and follow guy and I'm just trying to get back there again."

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