Nick Grande has been a fixture in the middle infield for the Smithtown West baseball program for five years. He was brought up to the varsity level in the eighth grade because he had quick feet and soft hands — a perfect combination for a middle infielder.
But Smithtown fans quickly found that he was also a pure hitter. Grande batted .300 as an eighth-grader and went from a light-hitting middle infield guy to Suffolk’s best hitter in five years.
“He took the game very seriously at a very young age,” said his father, Nick. “He’s a bit of a perfectionist and very hard on himself. He refused to be outworked and it paid off.”
The senior shortstop led Smithtown West to a share of the Suffolk League III title with crosstown neighbor Smithtown East. And he led the Bulls with a .522 batting average, 35 hits, 27 runs scored, 23 RBIs and a .641 on base percentage. He finished his high school career with 111 hits in his five-year career.
For his efforts, Grande was named the winner of the Blue Chip Prospects Silver Slugger Award last night at the Suffolk County Baseball Coaches Association banquet.
“Just to be recognized with some the best players on Long Island is a great honor,” Nick Grande said. “I’ve always wanted to be the best player I could be. I’ve put a lot of hours working on my hitting in the garage just working off the tee.”
The repetition paid off for the 6-0, 180-pound shortstop, who will attend SUNY-Stony Brook on a baseball scholarship in the fall.
“I played second base in the eighth and ninth grade and then shortstop for the next three years,” Nick Grande said. “It was an honor to be a part of such a great baseball program for such a long time. I’m grateful to coach [Al] Nucci for allowing me to be a part of his program since the eighth grade.”
Grande also contributed on the mound where he finished with a 5-1 record and a 1.57 ERA.
“I’ve always considered myself a shortstop first,” Grande said. “I enjoy pitching but hitting and playing shortstop is my favorite part of the game.”