Zammarelli goes Nuts 
in his third pro season

Zammarelli goes Nuts 
in his third pro season

Lincoln’s Nick Zammarelli played in a career-high 124 games and batted .274 (125-for-457) with 30 doubles, 10 home runs, and 60 runs batted in for the Class A-Advanced Modesto Nuts of the California League.
Lincoln native makes All-Star team in career year with M’s Class A-Advanced Modesto club

LINCOLN – For young minor league baseball players, a full professional season can feel like a marathon, especially since it starts in February with spring training and usually ends on Labor Day weekend – unless the season gets extended an extra week of two because of the postseason.

For Lincoln's Nick Zammarelli, who recently completed his third season as a minor leaguer in the Seattle Mariners' organization, his "marathon" last season got off to a rough start, no thanks to an hamstring injury he suffered in spring training that forced him to miss the first few weeks of his season with the Class-A Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings. It took Zammarelli nearly two months to get on track at the plate, but he came back to bat .282 in 106 games with the Midwest League team.

When that season ended, Zammarelli knew he needed to do something to make sure he came back stronger the following year, so he chose to make Arizona his home for most of the offseason and spend his time working out with the organization's strength coaches at the Mariners' spring training complex in Peoria.

And the hard work he put in certainly paid dividends this season. Playing for the Class A-Advanced Modesto Nuts of the California League, Zammarelli put together a career season that saw him appear in 124 games and bat .274 (125-for-457) with 30 doubles, 10 home runs, and 60 runs batted in, as well as earn a starting berth in the league's All-Star Game.

The 24-year-old Zammarelli, who graduated from Lincoln High in 2013 and was selected in the eighth round of the MLB Draft by the Mariners in 2016, batted .317 in his first 37 games with Modesto, and in a 12-10 victory over Stockton on May 28, he enjoyed one of his best games as a pro by belting two home runs and driving in five runs.

"Everything's been good," Zammarelli said last Friday morning before he and his team made a 90-mile bus trip to San Jose for its final series of the season. "I really don't have any complaints about this season. I kind of just took off in the first half (of the season). Last season, I started off slow, so this season, I basically just wanted to hit the ground running. That started in spring training, just doing what I needed to do in my at-bats to get ready for the season, and it kind of just worked out well for me."

Zammarelli established career highs in almost every offensive category, but the one that may have been the most impressive was the 508 plate appearances he made this season, which marked the first time he topped 500 since he split his 2016 season as a junior with Elon University and then as a pro with the short-season Everett (Wash.) Aqua Sox of the Northwest League.

"I didn't even know I was coming up on 500," Zammarelli added. "It's easy to have that many plate appearances when you can stay healthy. The whole point of my offseason was to lift with our strength coaches in Arizona and do what I had to do to stay healthy, and it's worked out so far. My body feels good, and when that happens, you don't have to really worry about much. You can just go up there and do your thing."

Defensively, Zammarelli, who spent most of his time at third base with Everett and first base with Clinton, saw the bulk of his action in right field this season. He played 55 games there, while serving 30 as a designated hitter, 25 as a first baseman, and nine as a left field.

"I think that's where (the organization) wants me to be," said Zammarelli. "They want me to start focusing more on left and right field."

Zammarelli talked about a number of topics on and off the field last weekend, and among those items ...

• On being inducted into the Lincoln High Athletic Hall of Fame on May 23. (Zammarelli's parents, Nick Jr. and Lisa, accepted his Hall of Fame plaque on his behalf.)
"That kind of came out of nowhere," said Zammarelli. "But that was a great honor. I got a text from my dad, and the first thing I kind of did was laugh and tell him, "Now I'm in the Hall of Fame and you're not, so I'm better than you officially."

• On the weather in Modesto, which is located in the heart of California.
"The weather's dry, and it hasn't rained since I've been here," Zammarelli said with a laugh. "One time, when we were in Stockton, the game was almost canceled due to unhealthy air."

• On the pitching he's faced.
"This is probably the best pitching I've faced since the Cape Cod League," said Zammarelli. "In San Jose, it seemed like every guy out of their pen threw 95-plus (mph)."

• On the latest nickname he received, Nicky Three Sticks. (The "three sticks" represents the "III" at the end of Zammarelli's name.)
"I've had a lot of nicknames since I've turned pro," said Zammarelli. "I know some people in Everett were calling me on Twitter "Slammarelli", and a bunch of my teammates here were calling me "Zambino". It's funny because I don't know how these nicknames come up."

• On the humorous GIF Zammarelli posted on Twitter of his father swinging a baquette (a long, thin loaf of bread) like a bat.
"He watches some of my games (online), and in one series against San Jose, they were just hammering me with inside fastballs," Zammarelli recalled. "As a joke, my cousin recorded him and he just grabbed a baquette, used it as a bat, and was showing me how to hit an inside pitch. I didn't put the whole video; I just put a little GIF because I thought people would enjoy it, and it seems like they did."

• On having one of his closest friends on the team, Bryson Brigman, getting traded to the Miami Marlins before the MLB trade deadline on July 31.
"This is the first time that a close friend was actually traded," added Zammarelli. "This was my fourth season with Brigman, because we played together in the Cape Cod League and in Everett and Clinton. It was definitely tough saying bye to him, but he's doing well over there. (Miami) sent him straight to Double-A and he's going to be in the (Arizona) fall league."

• On his favorite baseball team growing up, the Boston Red Sox, owning an MLB-best 96-44 record.
"Talent-wise, they're just so good," said Zammarelli. "They have depth on the mound and in their lineup. I think they could potentially win it all, and when you have young talent like that, winning's contagious. It's just one of those things when you walk in a locker room and you know something good's going to happen that day."

• On the Pawtucket Red Sox moving to Worcester after the 2020 season.
"Personally, I don't like it," said Zammarelli, whose grandfather had worked for the PawSox for 42 years. "I think it would have been nice to see the PawSox stay in Pawtucket. That would obviously have been good for the state. It's really tough for all the people that grew up around the PawSox."

• On his offseason plans.
"I'm still kind of working on them," Zammarelli answered. "I'll be home (in Lincoln) for a month or a month and a half, and then I think I'm going to head to Arizona, probably in the middle or the end of October, with one of my teammates here, just because of how well it worked out for me this year. Staying healthy was my main goal, and I've been fortunately enough to stay healthy this whole time, so I'm looking forward to working with our strength coaches again."

Lincoln’s Nick Zammarelli batted .274 with 125 hits, 30 doubles, 10 home runs, and 60 runs batted in for the Class A-Advanced Modesto Nuts of the California League. The former Lincoln High All-Stater also played in the league’s All-Star Game.