Hempfield alum Nick Yarnall has moved up in the minor leagues each year in his first three pro seasons since being drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 35th round a few years ago.
And the former University of Pittsburgh standout has been proving himself along the way. During the 2017 campaign, he played so well with the Dodgers’ rookie affiliate that Yarnall earned a Pioneer League all-star nod and a promotion to the Dodgers’ Class-A affiliate, the Great Lakes Loons.
More recently, Yarnall is fresh off a 2018 season split between the Loons and the Dodgers’ Class-A Advanced affiliate Rancho Cucamonga Quakers, combining to play in 67 games with 34 RBIs, a .252 batting average and 13 home runs.
Back home in Landisville for the offseason, Yarnall stopped by the LNP studio to chat about his baseball journey on episode No. 101 of the "Inspirational Athletes" podcast. You can listen to the full episode with the first baseman on LancasterOnline.com/podcasts or by searching, “Always Lancaster: Inspirational Athletes” in the podcast section on iTunes.
Here’s some snippets from the conversation...
When you were a kid, who was your favorite athlete growing up? “Jerome Bettis, the Steelers’ running back. I’m a big Steelers fan.”
What was your first job? “Helping my mom at this t-shirt place, Image Wizard, in Mountville. I’d screw up so many times.”
You’re really good at baseball. What sport are you the worst at? “Probably hockey because I can’t skate. I can’t roller-blade, either.”
What’s the longest home run you’ve ever hit? “That was recorded? Probably 462 feet I believe. In Idaho Falls, Idaho. Short-season my second year (pro). I kind of just remember it was a right-handed submarine pitcher. He threw a pitch that started inside of my knees and then broke back over the plate. I kind of backed up off the plate a little bit to set him up. I acted like he fooled me. And then he threw the same pitch again and I hit it to center field.”
What’s the craziest prank you’ve had pulled on you in baseball? “They’ll put gum around the edge of a cup and then put it on the top of your hat and you don’t notice it. It could be there for innings. It happened to me once. But I’m usually pretty aware of stuff that’s going on.”
In the 2016 Amateur Entry Draft, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected you in the third day of the draft in the 35th round (1,061st overall). What was draft day like for you? “I was sitting at home. We were listening to the draft-tracker thing on the radio. My dad, mom, brother were there. It was very stressful because we were listening to it thinking, ‘Is this gonna be it?’ It just kept getting later and later and I’m like, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I went for a walk. I was stressing out because everyone else was stressing out. I went back to my house. I got in my car. I was with my girlfriend at the time. We went to John Wright Restaurant in Wrightsville. I got a call (that I was drafted). We were at dinner. The waitress comes to take our order and me and my girlfriend were hugging and having fun. My girlfriend is crying. We went back home and had a party that night.”
You exploded in your second pro season, batting .368 with six homers and 25 RBIs to earn a Pioneer League all-star nod. But all of that came after a separated shoulder injury at the start of the 2017 campaign that put you on the shelf for five weeks. What happened there? “It was the third game of the season. It was a diving play down the line at first base. I’m left-handed so I reached across my body with my right (glove) hand. And my shoulder just popped out of place. I thought my shoulder was fine. I went up to hit again. I hit a ball to the left-field wall. As soon as I made contact that’s when I felt it. I went home and put ice on it. Everyday I’m just doing rehab.”
Do you feel like you have the hang of things as a pro ballplayer now with three pro seasons under your belt? “I would say I’m used to the everyday grind but I wouldn’t say I have being a pro baseball player all figured out yet. Because if I did I wouldn’t be in high-A...there’s still a lot of things I can learn.”
What are you trying to improve upon or work on over this offseason? “I’m trying to get a lot stronger. I don’t need to worry about my speed as much since I’m playing first base. I’m just trying to get as strong as I can and keep my swing as repeatable as possible.”