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Nick Bottari's baseball journey leads him home to the Ducks

Long Island Ducks' Nick Bottari bloops a single

Long Island Ducks' Nick Bottari bloops a single to the outfield against the York Revolution, Sunday, July 18, 2021, at Fairfield Properties Ballpark. Credit: George A. Faella

Nick Bottari’s post-graduate work began last weekend. His professor? Wally Backman

The Wading River native, who just graduated from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, with a master’s degree in business, inked his first professional deal with the Ducks on Friday and made his hometown debut Saturday night in front of friends, family and a whole lot of fellow Long Islanders.

"It's awesome," said Bottari, 25, who is living at his childhood home. "I get to stay home, eat some good cooking, and come to the field every day and have fun."

Bottari got his first two hits Sunday night in the Ducks' 15-7 win over the York Revolution. He went 2-for-3 with a run.

"I like what I see so far," Backman said. "I haven’t played him in the field yet. We’ll probably do that on the road. But I’m just trying to get his feet wet."

The Ducks, who are in first place in the Atlantic League North Division, play their next six games on the road — three in Lexington, Kentucky, and three in York, Pennsylvania — beginning Tuesday night.

Bottari was the DH on Saturday and Sunday. Backman said the Ducks are looking at Bottari as a first baseman or outfielder, with the expectation that former major leaguer Lew Ford will get a majority of the DH at-bats in the second half of the season.

Bottari hit .424 with 21 doubles and a Southeastern University-record 24 home runs in his final college season this spring. He was an NAIA first-team All-American and was the Sun Conference Player of the Year. Southeastern University went to the NAIA World Series.

Bottari, who spent two seasons at Hofstra before transferring to Southeastern, said he was told by his agent that there was a small chance he’d be drafted in last week’s MLB draft, but his advanced age limited that possibility. When he went undrafted, the Ducks came into focus.

"I feel like everybody is disappointed when they don't hear their name in the draft," Bottari said. "But, at the end of the day, I still get to play baseball. And that's all I really care about . . . My age just played a big factor in me [not] getting drafted this year. So, I have to take a different route, but I'm more than fine to do that."

Bottari went 0-for-2 in his debut Saturday. He said he had about 10 to 15 family and friends in the stands to witness his first professional at-bat.

"Going into my first at-bat, I was little bit nervous just because it's my first professional game," he said. "I was playing in college a few weeks ago. So, when they announced my name and I heard everybody cheering, it was pretty surreal. After I got my first at-bat out of the way, I kind of calmed down a little bit. I was a little bit more comfortable. But hearing my name for the first time was pretty cool."

If Bottari’s college profile translates, he could be the power boost the Ducks have been seeking. Entering Sunday’s game against York, the Ducks ranked last in the Atlantic League in home runs (35) and slugging (.389), and were tied for last in doubles (73).

"We’ll see how his swing plays," Backman said. "He’s a strong kid that has a lot of power. He showed big numbers in college. I know it was an [NAIA] college, but from what I’ve seen and read about him, his baseball instincts are there. I think he’s going to fit in with us."

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