What a difference a year has made for Nick Feight.
When the UNC Wilmington catcher/DH connected for a two-run home run in the first inning against visiting Iona on March 19, it gave him 27 RBIs on the season.
What was significant about that number, besides the fact it was a hefty RBI total for the third week of March, is the sophomore needed only 17 games to drive in more runs than the number of at-bats he had his entire freshman year.
While the Seahawks were winning the Colonial Athletic Association and advancing to the NCAA Regionals last spring, Feight listened and learned while compiling only 26 at-bats.
“We had a lot of seniors last year and they kind of showed me how college baseball is played,” said Feight, who was a two-time conference player of the year at Battlefield High School in Virginia. “They showed me the work ethic you need to have to be successful and how you should go about your business. Playing in the conference tournament and at LSU (in the regional) showed me the type of competition we are going to face and how much I need to prepare myself each and every day to help us win.”
Feight has certainly been helping the Seahawks (15-9) pile up the victories. Through 24 games the cleanup hitter’s 39 RBIs were third in the nation and he was one of only two sophomores in the top 12. His eight home runs were two more than the team leader a year ago and his .767 slugging percentage was best in the CAA. His .367 average was third on a team hitting .311.
“I just try to keep the game as simple as possible because it can be a pretty complicated game,” he said. “I want work as I hard as I can in practice and make sure I am doing the little things right. The only thing that matters to me is making sure that I help us win.”
For the most part Feight has split time behind the plate and serving as the DH. In the first 10 games he donned the tools of ignorance he gunned down seven of 18 would-be base stealers and was charged with only one error and one passed ball.
The 5-11, 200-pounder worked diligently on his defense as well as his hitting last summer while competing for Bethesda (Md.) in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, which is a 10-team circuit in Maryland, Virginia and D.C.
“Before games there were about five or six drills I would do, like blocking and receiving drills,” he said. “I would do everything as much as possible to get some extra work in. It is a game of repetition and how I go about my business is to get as many reps as possible.”
While Feight enjoys watching the Toronto Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson swing the bat, his favorite baseball player has had plenty of reps behind the dish. Yadier Molina has more than a decade of big-league service with the St. Louis Cardinals and Feight attempts to emulate the winner of eight consecutive Gold Gloves.
“I always thought of what he does behind the plate as like a work of art,” he said. “I could watch him catch all day, every day. I think it is beautiful what he does back there.”
It is a beautiful thing that Feight has given much of his time to the Wilmington Miracle League, which provides youths and adults with disabilities an opportunity to play baseball.
“It is a great experience to help kids enjoy the game of baseball,” he said. “It is really humbling and it shows us the great gifts that we have been given in being able to play baseball. It is great to see kids with a big smile on their face while having fun.”
Having fun is something Feight, who is also active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at UNCW, has done time and again this season. Don’t expect him to look at his stats, though. Rather, it is all about which team is next on the schedule.
“I just think about who we play next and how much I can help us win,” he said. “That is all I care about. I try to stay humble and work hard every day.”