By DAVID MERRILL
Northwest Missouri State University volunteer assistant baseball coach Nick Gotta had to miss the final week of this year’s regular season.
He had his own games to play.
Gotta finished up his Bearcat career after the 2016 season in which they finished 25-28. After completing his senior season with a .299 batting average to go with 59 hits, 12 doubles, two triples, and three home runs, the Fullerton, California native spent the summer of 2016 in the Missouri-Iowa-Nebraska-Kansas (MINK) League with the Ozark Generals.
He played in 44 games and hit .272 while putting up 21 RBI, five doubles, and one home run, which was good enough to get him on the All-Star team. Fellow Bearcat Logan Rycraft also played on the team and batted .274.
Gotta then returned to Maryville to serve as a volunteer assistant coach this past season before joining the Sioux Falls Canaries.
The Canaries featured a more experienced lineup with plenty of veterans and Gotta knew he wasn’t going to get a lot of playing time there. The Canaries, who play in the American Association, traded him to the Santa Fe Fuego in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Fuego play in the Pecos League, which also features teams from Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, and California.
Gotta knew he had a chance to fit in quickly there.
“I’ve been a middle infielder my whole life, and I knew they had a need for middle infielders, so I felt like it would be a good fit for me. I got there on May 18th and was able to practice with the team until the first game which was on the 24th.”
Gotta is now the leadoff hitter and starting shortstop for the Fuego, and has helped the team to a 9-3 record through Tuesday. He has seven RBI on nine hits, including two doubles this season.
Gotta, who has backup plans to go to law school when and if the baseball dream ends, said playing for Northwest helped him prepare for this league.
“You face great competition and great pitching in the MIAA,” he said. “A lot of MIAA teams go deep into the postseason. Lindenwood is another great example this year (placing fifth in the Division II championship). The league has a lot of talent, and it gets you ready for baseball after you’re done playing in college.”
According to Gotta, five players from last year moved up to different leagues after playing with the Fuego and one got a deal with a Major League Baseball organization.
MLB affiliated teams aren’t exactly foreign to Gotta. His brother, Cade, is currently with the Tampa Bay Rays organization, playing right field for the the Montgomery Biscuits, the Double-A affiliate.
Nick said Cade, who played college ball at San Diego Christian College, is a constant fountain of advice.
“He’s taught me a lot about the process and keeps telling me to be patient and he keeps telling me things I need to work on,” Nick Gotta said. “Having his help with everything has been huge. He’s taught me a lot.”
Fuego manager TJ Zarewicz said Gotta transitioned over to the team very quickly and there wasn’t much of an adjustment process.
“He has come in and done everything we’ve asked him to do,” Zarewicz said. “He’s been solid in the leadoff spot and up the middle as a shortstop. He’s also a big threat on the bases.”
As a recent example of his effectiveness on the base paths, Zarewicz gave an example of Gotta coming in to pinch run for the team on what was supposed to be a day off. He ended up scoring the winning run.
The Fuego start a three-game home series against the White Sands Pupfish tonight.