LINCOLN – In a spring season that has seen their son operate in a fishbowl and subjected to seemingly never-ending interactions with pro baseball scouts, Nick Zammarelli Jr. and wife Lisa have been with Lincoln High senior standout Nick III every step of the way.
The journey leading up to Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft has been part eye-opener, part draining ordeal. Frequently, the player's dad has been forced to deal with endless questions from talent evaluators, all of them clamoring to know about Nick and what his future plans may entail.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been extremely stressful,” said Nick Jr. matter-of-factly.
Now that all the heavy lifting is complete and the scouts have hunkered down in each team’s respective draft command post, the Zammarelli family can take a deep breath and exhale. All that’s left for Nick Jr., Lisa and Nick III to do is to play the waiting game and see where the chips fall in the 40-round draft exercise that concludes Saturday.
To say that the past two-plus months have been a wild and intense ride would be an understatement. Just about every Lincoln game this spring has featured a strong scouting presence, all of them not only on hand to evaluate Nick III’s swing in person, but also to gain insight as to what kind of person he is on and off the field.
Nick Jr. traces the mad rush of regional scouts, cross checkers and directors back to last November when his boy was invited to a clinic sponsored by the New York Yankees in Canton, Mass. A number of teams were on hand, all of whom presented Nick III with questionnaires to fill out and send back.
The winter months included another workout before scouts in Syracuse and a visit by a scout from the Seattle Mariners; that served as a precursor regarding what was to come. The intrigue picked up during the Lions’ preseason with one scout telling Nick Jr. what his teenager could expect come the team’s first game of the season, back on April 8.
“(He said) ‘When you open up against Hendricken, they’ll be 20 of us there.’ That just came out of nowhere,” shared Nick Jr., an LHS baseball standout himself who went on to enjoy a four-year career at Holy Cross. Presently he’s an attorney in Pawtucket.
“The Seattle scout kind of predicted everything that would happen to Nick as far as how word would spread and dealing with teams that you had no idea were interested,” he continued.
The father adopted a creed that enabled him to watch his son’s games somewhat peacefully.
“I’m not going to talk to them unless they talk to me. I understand that they’re doing a job, and I don’t want to seem like an overzealous parent,” the elder Zammarelli stated. “What you find is they do want to talk to you and get as much information about your son as they can. The main thing you hear from every single scout is the maturity issue of an 18-year-old, and they’re going to gauge a parent’s response. They want to know if I think Nick is ready.
“My wife and I would watch how Nick interacted with the pro guys and how he handled himself,” the father added. “There’s no question that there’s pressure – every time Nick stepped in the batter’s box, scouts took cameras out – but because he was able to handle that so well, we felt that he could handle turning pro after high school.”
Naturally, the phenom’s parents had questions of their own about the belly of the beast that had taken hold of their son.
“Going into all this, our main concern was whether Nick was mature enough. Once we got by that, it shifted to what kind of setup that teams have for rookie ball,” said the elder Zammarelli. “Scouts will go out of their way to tell you that it’s more of a college atmosphere where they will live in dorms. They’re still getting paid because they’re professionals, but they’re not using money for food.”
The parents also wanted to get on record that Nick III’s baseball future was secure – he signed a letter-of-intent to attend North Carolina’s Elon University last November.
“You convey that college is a strong option unless there’s a better situation professionally,” says Zammarelli. “One of the things that I think Nick has realized throughout this whole process is that if this doesn’t work out, his baseball career is not over. He has an opportunity to play at a strong Division I program.”
In an effort to curb the texts and calls Nick III would receive from scouts during school hours, the family hired an advisor. In Boston-based agent Joe Rosen, the Zammarellis empowered someone to get a better sense of the teams that were truly serious, and the ones that were simply kicking the tires.
“I had to take a step back because it was getting to the point where they were going to start asking about a signing bonus,” Zammarelli said. “From the first day, we’ve always kept in mind that Nick is 18 and in his final year of high school. You always remember your senior year no matter how old you are, and we didn’t want him to look back and feel that he was under a lot of stress and pressure.”
In the meantime, Zammarelli Jr. was getting a crash course on draft nuances from Rosen, the onetime agent to ex-Red Sox relief pitcher Hideki Okajima.
“I had no idea about slot values or the other important terms that are used,” said Nick Jr. “The first night we met with Joe, he was at the house for three hours and covered everything.”
Now that the culmination of the process is at hand, Nick Jr. can reflect on all the batting practice sessions he tossed to his son this spring while the scouts hovered nearby. The father estimates that five MLB teams have Nick on their draft boards with another 10 also taking him under advisement.
Whatever the next step entails, the family can now look back and marvel at what a ride it’s been.
“For me and his mom, it will be a big relief. For Nick, I’m sure he’ll be excited,” said Nick Jr.