Arizona Baseball

Arizona baseball: College ball suits freshman Nick Quintana

Nick Quintana has an on-base percentage of .700 after his first four games. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

Arizona Wildcats freshman third baseman Nick Quintana could have gone pro. He was an 11th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox last summer. But his older brother Zach provided some advice during the process.

“You should go to college,” Zach told Nick. “I wish I did.”

Zach was the Milwaukee Brewers’ third-round pick in 2012, but he never made it to the majors. Nick is taking a longer route to a pro paycheck, but, based on one fantastic week of college baseball, it looks like his decision to bypass a signing bonus of about $100,000 could pay dividends many times over down the road.

Quintana, the Las Vegas Sun Male Athlete of the Year as a senior at Arbor View High School, was selected the Pac-12 Player of the Week after his opening series of college baseball.

In a four-game sweep of Eastern Kentucky, Quintana went 8 for 14 with four doubles, six RBIs, seven runs, six walks and one stolen base. All of which contributed to a great start for the Wildcats, including a walk-off victory on Monday when Cesar Salazar was hit by a pitch.

The Quintana brothers talk every day and Nick has learned from his brother’s brief career in the minors that skipping college was a mistake he didn’t want to make.

“He’s given me the best advice anyone could have given me,” Quintana said. “The information that he provided me was amazing. I had better insight than friends of mine in pro ball now.”

After his first semester of college, Quintana acknowledged that attending the University of Arizona has been an invaluable experience.

“The U of A has molded me into a person I like,” Quintana said.

“I’m not afraid of who I am. Coming here has definitely helped me find who I am as a person and an athlete. I have a lot of friends who told me that college is the best thing and I believe that 100 percent. It makes me become more mature. You have to push yourself, force yourself to do the right things.”

In his adjustment to life away from home, Quintana has enjoyed the familiarity of having Jay Johnson as his coach. Johnson coached at the University of Nevada from 2014-15 and began recruiting Quintana in the 8th grade.

Johnson originally offered a Nevada scholarship to Quintana, who declined. But when Johnson came to Arizona, “the stars aligned,” Quintana said. He signed and then resisted the pull of pro ball.

Quintana and Johnson have a close relationship, and the coach has been complimentary of the freshman’s character, as much as his talent.

“He’s a very mature baseball player,” Johnson said.

Quintana may feel — and look — beyond his years, but that doesn’t mean he arrived that way in the fall. College has led to his development from a player concerned about his own performance to an athlete focused on the team’s progress.

“Coming here has given me a sense of mind where it’s not all about me anymore,” Quintana said. “Coming to a program like this is all about the team now. That’s definitely helped me as a player.”

Quintana became the first player in school history to win the conference Player of the Week award after his opening series. He and the Wildcats get back at it Thursday for the start of a four-game series against McNeese State at Hi Corbett Field.

What’s he going to do next?

Quintana isn’t too worried about that. He has his own style of play, and hopes he can be an influence for the young players who enjoy watching him play.

“I’m gonna be who I am as a player and do that every day,” Quintana said. “Later down the road, kids can look up to me and be like, ‘I like what he does.’”

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