If it seems like being a potentially high selection in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft isn't a big deal to a laid-back and nonchalant Southern California beach kid named Nick Pratto, maybe it's because the big stage has been a part of his baseball existence since childhood.Pratto has already
If it seems like being a potentially high selection in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft isn't a big deal to a laid-back and nonchalant Southern California beach kid named Nick Pratto, maybe it's because the big stage has been a part of his baseball existence since childhood.
Pratto has already delivered a championship-winning hit on national television, way back when he was all of 12 years old. It happened in 2011, when his walk-off single powered his Ocean View, Calif., team over Japan in the Little League World Series final.
Pratto is now 18, will soon graduate from Huntington Beach High School right by the Pacific Ocean, and he's one of the best left-handed-hitting prospects in America. But he's also a slick-fielding first baseman who works hard at his craft. Pratto wants to grow as a player, and he won't stop until he reaches his dream.
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"I understand this isn't the last step in whatever I'm going to do," Pratto said of getting drafted and potentially signing with a professional organization. "I want to be a big leaguer and I'm going to do everything I need to do to be a big leaguer -- just keep developing my hit tool and keep progressing and being a better ballplayer, a better leader, a better teammate."
Pratto is already off to a great start in all categories.
Scouts love his left-handed swing, his power and his discipline at the plate. Pratto was walked 28 times in regular-season play during the recently completed prep schedule, and it was rare to see pitchers challenging him with fastballs.
Meanwhile, Pratto, who transferred to Huntington Beach from nearby Mater Dei after his sophomore year so he could reunite with many of his Little League buddies, became an indispensable leader in the Oilers' clubhouse.
"He's pretty fiery," said Pratto's high school coach, Benji Medure. "He doesn't let people slack or give anything less than their best, but he's the first guy out of the dugout to shake your hand if you do something right, and he's just really team-oriented. He wants the best for the team at all times."
Medure, like many baseball people around Huntington Beach and Southern California in general, has been watching Pratto and his friend and teammate Hagen Danner since those Little League days. Danner, a pitcher and slugging catcher, also is a senior and also has a good chance of being drafted this year. Both players are pulling for each other and hoping to make some more local history.
"Hagen and I have been together for a little over 10 years now, and it's been a brotherhood," Pratto said. "We've been through a lot together, and this is kind of one more step that we get to go through. It's going to be really exciting [to see] where both of us end up."
Pratto is committed to USC, but he is expected to sign if he's selected in the top two rounds. Danner signed with UCLA, but he could also go high in the Draft. The possibilities are bright, and Medure couldn't be prouder. When asked about Pratto, he doesn't hesitate to say that any big league team would be smart to snap him up considering how all the success and notoriety throughout the years.
"They're getting a competitor," Medure said. "They're getting someone who is very detail-oriented who is going to work hard every single day. He's going to definitely bring a fire to the game that I think is good for the game of baseball, for professional baseball, because he doesn't take a play off. Every single pitch, every single inning of every game, he wants to win.
"I think he really lives for that grind and really wants to win every single thing that he gets involved in."
Pratto has done a lot of winning, and not just in Williamsport, Pa., six years ago. He's also been on very good high school teams in one of the most competitive baseball regions in the country and on two gold-medal-winning USA national under-18 teams.
In other words, Pratto's ready. He's been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, and he knows what he'll do with it.
"Coming into this, I wasn't really expected to go as high as I am now," Pratto said. "But it's been a lot of hard work, and really, no one's expectations are going to exceed my own."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.