As Frank D’Agostino slowly walked from the Owls’ dugout into the batter’s box, Hoodfellas’ house remix of “Franky” played through the speakers at Temple’s Skip Wilson Field, though not by the freshman right fielder’s choice.
“[The seniors] pick out [the freshmen] walkout songs and they have got to use the song until they get their first hit at home,” senior left fielder Allen Stiles said about the comical freshmen walk-out songs. “Luckily for Frank, his first hit at home was a home run.”
D’Agostino had started in seven games prior to Temple’s meeting with La Salle on April 7 and still had yet to record his first hit when playing at home. In his nine previous games played, D’Agostino had four hits, all of which came while Temple was the visiting team.
D’Agostino hit his first collegiate home run over the right-field fence in the second inning of a 12-7 loss to the Explorers. Coach Ryan Wheeler and D’Agostino’s teammates said they expect the 6-foot-3-inch left-handed batter to hit many more home runs during his collegiate career.
“I had a home run [unofficially] in the fall season, so this one wasn’t so surprising,” D’Agostino said. “It felt good though. I got a good piece of the ball and it went out.”
D’Agostino followed that by saying with a smile that it feels good to no longer have to hear “Franky,” a song assigned to him by redshirt-senior pitcher Steve Visnic, when approaching the plate when playing at home.
Wheeler said that he believes the time has come to put D’Agostino in his everyday lineup after he shared time in the outfield in Temple’s first 26 games.
“You know, I think we all kind of saw it coming,” redshirt-junior David Hall said about D’Agostino’s recent increase in playing time. “He is a guy with a lot of talent; he showed it right away with the games against Penn State in the fall, but you see it every day as he is a guy who flashes stuff that not a lot of guys have. Guys like Frank are few and far between. I think that he has the build, the mindset and the fundamentally sound swing to compete in this league for the next few years.”
For Wheeler, the issue has not been that D’Agostino had not earned time to play earlier in the season, but the competition for the right field position has been fierce.
“I wanted to play [D’Agostino] earlier in the season, but other players were hot at the right time,” Wheeler said. “We tried to use him in certain situations and maybe it was just a little too much for him at the time. We needed to go back and work on some things. I told him that he needed to work a little bit harder on his swing and he has put the time in. Some guys had gotten hot there for a while so it was tough to get him in the lineup, but I believe it’s time to get him back in [the lineup].”
When D’Agostino was being recruited by Temple, he said he expected to have a good chance to be an everyday player. This season, he has started in 10 games and has made appearances in 12 games total.
“When I was recruited, I was recruited as a guy who was going to come in to play right away,” D’Agostino said. “I wasn’t surprised but I was surprised at the same time about playing. I got my opportunity to play in the beginning of the year, but now I am getting another opportunity and I am just trying to make the most of it.”
In 36 at-bats, D’Agostino has six hits – one home run, one double and four singles – and is batting .167 with three RBI. Despite spending part of the fall season batting in the cleanup spot, D’Agostino typically bats in the bottom half of the Owls’ lineup.
“I wanted to put him down in the lineup to take some of the pressure off of him,” Wheeler said. “Hopefully batting lower in the lineup will get him better pitches to hit and allow him to get himself going offensively.”
In a 9-6 loss to Longwood on March 12, D’Agostino led Temple offensively, going 3-for-4 with two RBI, his best game of the season.
“He did really well in the fall and we knew he was going to be a big asset for us, but we just didn’t know where or when,” senior left fielder Allen Stiles said. “He has settled in batting lower in the order and he really has a lot of potential. Hopefully he is a player that continues to progress through the years. I’m sure he will continue to hit more home runs in the future, too.”
“Right now, [D’Agostino] is much more of an offensive player than a defensive player,” Wheeler said. “He is a guy that brings some punch to our lineup. I think before his career is over here, he is a going to be a guy that will be sitting in the middle of the lineup and will be able to drive in some runs and hit home runs for us. We will continue to work on his defense, but he has a bright future and I am excited to see what he can do.”
Hoping to remain a valuable asset to Wheeler’s lineup, D’Agostino has just one goal in mind for the rest of the 2013 season – win.
“Wherever I am at in the lineup, I am trying to do whatever I can to help the team win,” D’Agostino said. “I don’t have any other goals besides that.”
John Murrow can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JohnMurrow12.