When MC shortstop Nick Dean decided to return for his final year of eligibility, expectations were high. The reigning USA South Player of the Year from Mineral Bluff, Ga. batted .401 with 57 hits, 29 runs batted in and three homers in 2014. With numbers like that, no one could have blamed him for hanging up the cleats.
Many thought Dean’s senior day last season would be his last game at Honaker Field. He had the option to play another year because he redshirted his freshman season, but that would mean another year of classes and tuition. But it also meant another chance to turn the Scots baseball program around. During the opening ceremonies, junior first baseman Zack Blonder whispered something to Dean.
“I was like, ‘this doesn’t have to be it. You’ve still got one more year,’” Blonder said.
The Scots finished the season 16-22 overall and 11-16 in USA South play.
Toward the end of the summer, Dean called Athletic Director Kandis Schram and confirmed that he would be returning for a fifth year at Maryville College to play baseball and pursue his teacher licensure certification.
“I just wanted to win,” Dean said. “Having losing seasons for three years straight is no way to go out in your career.”
And losing seasons no more—the Fighting Scots just put together their best year since Dean arrived in 2010, going 25-14 overall and placing fourth in the conference at 18-12.
Dean’s numbers last season were arguably the best in the conference, but his numbers this year were arguably the best in the nation. He recorded 73 hits, the most in all of Division III baseball. His 51 RBI’s ranked third in the nation, and his 47 runs ranked fourth. His .454 batting average, 16 stolen bases and eight homers were just icing on the cake.
Being an All-American was a goal of Dean’s when he decided to come back, and it’s looking like he’ll achieve that goal. He’s already been named to the Division III National Team of the Week twice, and his 9 for 18, eight RBI stretch over the last five games only helps his chances. But with the season now over, Dean has something bigger on his mind than All-American honors—going pro.
On May 24, Dean will participate in a pre-draft combine in for the Los Angeles Dodgers in hopes of being chosen in the 2015 MLB Draft held June 8-10. The combine will be held at Woodward Academy in Atlanta.
Several MLB teams have had their eye on Dean during his time at MC. A scout from the Chicago Cubs attended a few games last season and has continued to monitor Dean’s play through this season, and a scout from the Pittsburg Pirates has also been in contact with Dean. Scouts from both teams attended the Scots first showing against N.C. Wesleyan this year. Dean went 4 for 6 with three RBIs and a triple en route to a 16-8 victory that afternoon.
Dean spoke with the Cubs’ and Pirates’ scouts after the game, and according to Dean, “they both had some encouraging stuff to say.”
They have continued to send information back and forth, but Dean said, “you never really know what’s going to happen until the draft in June, but it’s looking good so far.”
“[Getting drafted] would be awesome,” Dean said. “It’s every kid’s dream. If it works out, it works out; If not, I’ll try to go to as many tryouts as I can. I’ll be really excited if it happens.”
Dean’s final season made him the Maryville College all-time hit leader with 247 in his career, and his 73 hits and 51 RBIs are each MC single-season records.
“He had the potential to get drafted last year,” said Blonder. “But teams are stupid if they don’t draft him this year, because he’s unbelievable. He’s the best player I’ve every played with, and I’ve played with some guys that were drafted in the first round. Nick’s head and shoulders right there with them.”