Former Temple third baseman Steve Nikorak said the realization of being selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft is a feeling he won’t forget anytime soon.
“I was sitting with my family watching the live broadcast on the computer when my name came up,” Nikorak said. “We all went crazy and dog piled in my living room. We were all crying and jumping up and down. It was a really special moment and one that we waited a long time for.”
Nikorak was taken in the 32nd round (981st overall) in the draft by the Chicago White Sox. Nikorak was named to the Atlantic Ten Conference First Team this season after batting .302 with 7 home runs and 42 RBIs. He leaves Temple as the school’s all-time leader in doubles (65), fourth place in hits (228) and tied for seventh with 182 games started.
For Nikorak, being drafted and getting the opportunity to play professional baseball is a dream come true, and one that he worked toward since playing at a young age.
“This has been a goal since I started playing as a little kid,” Nikorak said. “I knew this was probably my last shot at going pro, and I’m just really happy that it’s finally happened.”
“You never know what to expect with the draft, but I knew he had the ability to play at the next level,” Temple coach Ryan Wheeler said. “It was just whether or not [Nikorak] was given the opportunity to play at that next level and I’m excited for him that the White Sox have given him that opportunity.”
Upon signing, Nikorak will be headed to one of the White Sox two rookie affiliates: the Great Falls Voyagers of Great Falls, Mont. or the Bristol White Sox based out of Bristol, Va.
Despite the unforgettable experience of being drafted, Nikorak understands the challenges that lie ahead of him.
“It’s going to be hard to play at that level and move up the ranks,” Nikorak said. “I’m going to be playing against some of the best young players in the world. I’m thankful for the White Sox for giving me a shot here, and hopefully I will get opportunities to move up and to play as long as I can.”
Wheeler, Nikorak’s coach during his final year at Temple, was taken in the 31st round of the 1994 MLB draft by the California Angels organization. He lasted less than a year in the professional ranks.
Wheeler said he knows of the challenges that playing minor league baseball presents.
“Professional baseball is a business,” Wheeler said. “You have to produce and play well every day and block out any pressure. You have to focus on playing your game while having fun with it. I hope [Nikorak] keeps those things in mind as he plays at the next level.”
“People have asked me about his pro potential before, and you just never know,” Wheeler added. “He has the tools to go to the big leagues, and there have been guys drafted in later rounds that have done it in the past. If he goes out there with the right mindset, I believe he can do it.”
Drew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.