BOSTON -- Flanked by family members and other prospects, Nick Yorke walked around what will likely be his future office on Wednesday and experienced a bit of awe.
This was Fenway Park, one of the most historic sports venues in the world -- and one where the 19-year-old Yorke can’t wait to suit up in the coming years.
Yorke had been to Fenway before -- shortly after the Red Sox made him the No. 17 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft -- but that was during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with no fans in the stands and no buzz in the air.
For Yorke, who was on hand to receive the organization’s offensive player of the year award, this was an entirely different experience.
“I mean, we all walked in and we're looking around, and it's surreal. I mean, it's the nicest field I've ever seen,” said Yorke, Boston's No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline. “So it's super exciting.”
It was Yorke who created excitement among Red Sox fans by having a smashingly successful first pro season that started with 76 games at Low-A Salem and finished with 21 games at High-A Greenville. The right-handed-hitting infielder thrived at both affiliates, compiling a slash line of .325/.412/.516 with 14 homers and 62 RBIs.
That was something Yorke probably didn’t see coming after his massive struggles during his first three weeks of the season, when he hit .177. And he couldn’t help but look back on that shaky beginning as he held court with a throng of media members in the Red Sox dugout on Wednesday.
“I was lucky the season wasn't a month or else I wouldn't be here, right?” Yorke quipped.
After that slump was over, Yorke did what he has always done: pound the baseball and work tirelessly on his craft.
It still isn’t lost on Yorke that nearly everyone was stunned when the Red Sox selected him so high. He plans on spending the rest of his playing days proving the naysayers wrong while making Boston look smart.
“It's motivation,” said Yorke. “I mean, I still know the number -- I was ranked 139th going into the Draft by Perfect Game, but at the end of the day, that's not gonna help me get to the big leagues. So, you know, every opportunity that I got to be on the field, [I tried] to make the most of it and prove to them that I’m better than 139th.
“It’s a big chip on my shoulder. I'm ready to call MLB Network and say, ‘Hey, I know you guys are surprised, but here I am. Let's get it going.’ I'm excited for that.”
Yorke’s enthusiasm is obvious, but it’s his poise and his skills that he will rely on to take him where he needs to be.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora remembers well what kind of first impression Yorke made during Spring Training, when he was the rare player to be invited to big league camp less than a year after graduating from high school.
“The way he acts, the way he goes about his business, it’s very impressive,” said Cora. “As you guys know, I have a daughter around the same age and just to think about the way he carries himself in the clubhouse with adults, it was eye-opening. What he did is what he expects. His expectations are great. He’s in tune with the game.
“He understands there’s the offensive part of it, but you have to run the bases and play defense. He knows that. He was a sponge the whole time. We’re very pleased with the way he went about it this year. We’re looking forward to him getting better and getting here as soon as possible to contribute.”
Now that his season is over, Yorke is already looking ahead to 2022.
“I'm going home and I'm getting to work. Last offseason, they had me work on my weight because I was a little overweight,” said Yorke. “So I'm really excited to go into this offseason, because I have some more goals rather than just lose weight. You know, I can work on some other stuff. I was 225 going into instructs and then they told me to come back in Spring Training at least 215, and I came back at 205 and that's where I'm at now.”
The Red Sox were pleased but not surprised by what Yorke did in his first season in the Minors.
“It's certainly a testament to the work he's put in and the work our staff has put in,” said Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham. “And obviously, there's a reason why we drafted him where we did. I think he’s shown everyone why that's been the case. So we're really excited about this past year and moving forward as well.”