Born to Pitch
NJB Feature Story
You could almost say that Nick Nametko was born to play baseball. The 6’3” 230 lb. junior pitcher for Manchester High School in Ocean County has played some form of organized baseball since the age of four. That’s right, since the age of four. If he was not born, literally, to play the game, he certainly comes close to that distinction.
In fact, you might even say that he was born to pitch. Aside from some brief experience playing second base in Little League, he has performed as a pitcher his entire young life. It seemed to always come easy for him. He has great footsteps to follow, excellent training, consistent support from his parents, and the physical talent and mental toughness to succeed.
He took motivation from his older brother, Ron, who played on a competitive travel team and had a “strong commitment to the game.” That precedent signaled his own involvement in youth baseball. Nick also participated on a competitive travel team, winning the Elite Championship in East Coast Tournament Baseball in 2001. The motivation and the accolades continued, as Nick eventually pitched on his high school varsity team as a freshman.
A Pitcher is Born
Not surprisingly, Nick’s ambition is to pitch in college. Carrying the frame of an NFL linebacker already, he certainly meets the physical qualifications. Armed with a fastball in excess of 80 mph, a curve ball that he can throw for strikes, and a splitter that drops like a rock, he’s a sure bet to attain his goal. In addition to his Dad’s influence, Nick has received training at Dave Gallagher’s Baseball Training Academy from Bryce Codey and Willie Banks. As good as his pitches are now, he is learning to throw them with greater control, particularly the curve ball, by “keeping my hips closed up to the point of release.”
The combination of inspiration from his older brother, support from his family, and the best training that he could possibly have provides Nick with confidence that you typically see only in older players. Says his mother, “On the mound he’s unflappable, nothing bothers him.” Pitching as a freshman against perennial Shore League rival St. Rose of Belmar in 2006, “their best hitter hit one to the warning track in the last inning of a close game. Nick calmly struck out the next batter to end the game, and his team won 7-6.” He repeated his heroics as a sophomore by beating Central Regional High School, which had “knocked us out of the sectional playoffs (the year before), in a 10-run loss. It was one of the toughest games I ever had.”
But probably his most memorable outing came between his freshman and sophomore years while pitching “in a pickup game on John Wells’ Baseball U” prospect team. Facing players who “played on the varsity at Shore regional,” Nick, cool, calm, and collected, threw a complete game, one-hitter. That performance pretty much cemented his desire to pitch in college. Although it might be too early to draw comparisons, no one at the major league level exhibited greater coolness under fire than Greg Maddux in his prime.
All of these experiences coming at a comparatively young age loom even larger when you consider that, at age twelve, he strained his rotator and had to have it X-rayed. As anyone connected to baseball knows, a rotator cuff injury can have serious implications for a pitcher’s future prospects. Fortunately, Nick’s youthful arm responded well to treatment, enabling him to continue to grow and win in the game that he loves to play.
NJB Magazine shares his family’s confidence that Nick will reach new heights of achievement in 2009. The picture is not rosy, with a difficult schedule and a tough coach staring him in the face; but, as everyone who knows him understands, adversity is something that Nick stares down and not vice versa. How could it be any other way for a young man who’s born to pitch?