FR's Nania logging miles for baseball
When August rolls around, many high school players give up baseball gloves and bats for helmets and shoulder pads or shin guards and soccer boots.
But for Franklin Regional junior Brandon Nania, baseball is a year-round thing.
Nania has been hard at work this summer in a number of elite leagues and showcases, and in doing so, has accumulated a list of honors that should help him grab the attention of college coaches.
The starting third baseman for the Panthers' varsity team last year, the left-handed hitting 11th-grader has continued to develop his strong swing while working to improve defensively as a catcher and corner infielder.
In August, Nania traveled to Florida, where he participated in prospect events run by the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) and by Baseball Factory, a scouting partner for Baseball America magazine. His performances at those two events have opened up even more chances to showcase his talent before the spring, an opportunity he is eager to take.
“It's been a lot of baseball, but I love it,” Nania said. “(Baseball) is my first love, and it's great to go out and compete against others.”
This summer was Nania's second year attending the USSSA's All-American Games in Kissimmee, Fla., and he pulled down one of the showcase's highest honors by being selected as a first-team high school varsity All-American. The honor will give him a chance to play with the USSSA's national team in 2013 when it is scheduled to travel to Europe.
“Being picked to the first team was probably the biggest honor,” Nania said. “I went to Florida for (the All-American Games) last year, so I had an idea what to expect. This year, I came in more prepared and in better shape.”
On that same trip, Nania went to the Baseball Factory's showcase in Bradenton, Fla., where his performance again garnered an invitation, this time to the Under Armour Pre-Season All-America Tournament in Tuscon, Ariz., from Jan. 18 to 20, 2013. More than 200 attendees were at last year's Under Armour event, where they worked out and played in games in front of college coaches and scouts from 23 Major League Baseball teams.
“Basically the way to get selected is a strong performance at a tryout, and that's where Brandon got his selection, both in Pittsburgh (in April) and at Pirate City,” said Adam Darvick, a regional player development coordinator for Baseball Factory. “There's a lot of kids with Division I and Division II ability from all over the country that will be there, and he'll have a chance to showcase his game with the best players.”
One thing Nania is overcoming is the perception that baseball in the northern states isn't of the same quality as baseball in the south and on the west coast, where players have the chance to train outdoors and play at a high level year round.
“When you go down to Florida, the players from down there think you're from up north, so it's not as competitive,” Nania said. “You have to keep going out there and competing.”
“He's from a cold weather state, he's limited to indoor facilities part of the year,” Darvick said. “Now, he has a chance to showcase his skills and show that he's an above-average player. He can show that he can stay with those other players and do things to separate himself from them.”
One college coach that knows Nania's strengths and weaknesses well is La Roche head coach Chase Rowe, who coached Nania this summer with the Pittsburgh Spikes of the Western Pennsylvania Elite Baseball League. Nania's play there earned him an all-tournament team selection and a chance to play last weekend in the Pennsylvania Underclass Top Prospect Games in Washington, Pa.
“First and foremost with Brandon is his swing. He has good power potential and bat speed,” Rowe said. “He was a sophomore in the league over the summer, and he wasn't overmatched at all by pitchers who are heading into college.
“The biggest thing with him, is he needs to develop into more of an athletic body. He's got time to develop, and it's something he's going to have to put more time into, but that will translate into helping him defensively and adjusting to the speed of the college level.”
It's that kind of advice Nania seems eager to take in, and the chances to play in front of coaches and scouts give him advice down to the most minor detail.
“I like getting the feedback and knowing what I have to improve on,” Nania said. “One thing they told me is when I'm playing third base, I tend to take an extra clap before I throw the ball, and that time is an extra step a runner gets on you going to first. It's just a habit I have to work on.”
Willingness to work is one thing Nania has shown, and that, coaches say, is one of the best qualities to find in a player.
“His dad was a player and a coach, and (Brandon) has good instincts. He's a baseball person,” Rowe said. “He really prepares himself well, and that's going to help him down the line.”
“He really is a great kid, and the stuff that goes on his (Baseball Factory) player (web) page, he's earned from the way he plays,” Darvick said.
“He battles. He shows great leadership and has a lot of positives. That's the kind of player college teams want, and we're hoping we can help him get there.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.