John Nogowski's 'amazing' week with Pirates brings joy to Seminoles
It's been seven years since John Nogowski played a game in Dick Howser Stadium.
Which means it's been seven years of arduous travel, playing games in the tiniest cities in this country, hoping against hope that the hard work and countless hours at the field would pay off with a chance -- a real chance -- in the major leagues.
That investment certainly paid off this week, as Nogowski just had the best three-game series of his professional life as the starting first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Heck, it even included a little relief work on the mound.
And his former FSU hitting coach couldn't be any happier for him.
"Oh it was (really neat)," current FSU head coach Mike Martin Jr. said. "I knew he was getting a chance with St. Louis, and the next thing you know he's traded. And the next thing you know he's getting four hits in a game and throwing 72 mile-per-hour fastballs and getting people out.
"I know when he came back to the dugout he said, 'Guys, this pitching thing really isn't that hard.' But that's just the way he was. He always thought he was the best player on the field. Sometime he was, sometimes he wasn't. But that mindset, that grit, that stick-to-it, he's got it. And it is a great story."
It's an improbable story.
Nogowski's first year in the minor leagues was in 2014, after being drafted in the 34th round by the Oakland A's. His journey has taken him all over the continent, from rookie ball to single-A to double-A to the Dominican Winter League to the Arizona Fall League to the Mexican Pacific Winter League and two different stints in the independent leagues.
The former All-ACC first-teamer never gave up on his dream, though. Even as he played more than 800 games in leagues that weren't the bigs. Even as he was dealt from the Athletics to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he got four major-league at-bats last season and 18 more this season before being sent down to AAA.
He kept battling.
The reward came this week when he was traded to the Pirates for cash considerations and was immediately inserted into the major-league lineup.
His first game with his new team came on Monday night. He had two hits and drew an 11-pitch walk. He had another hit on Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves and then followed that up with a four-hit game on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old also pitched the ninth inning of a blowout loss, delivering a scoreless frame after inducing a double play to end the inning.
"Not many guys would have stuck with it," Martin Jr. said. "Especially not in the microwave society we're in now. 'I want it right now, and if not, I'm out.' I quit and hang 'em up and complain about how I got screwed. He's not like that. He kept going.
"It's amazing. It really is. He could always defend. That's the main thing. He could always really, really defend. But he didn't run well, he didn't have power, he didn't have this and that, but he kept going. It's amazing."
Nogowski appears to be the everyday first baseman for the Pirates for at least the immediate future. He went 7-for-12 in his first three games and had an on-base percentage of .643.
Oh yeah, and there was that 1-2-3 inning on the mound.
It's early. And an extremely small sample size. But Nogowski is certainly making a name for himself in Pittsburgh.
“Yeah, a really nice debut for him, especially a credit to this kid," Pirates manager Derek Shelton told reporters. "He hadn’t played in a week. The only thing he’s done is take ground balls and hit in the cage in Tallahassee.
"So for him to come out and have that debut, it was kind of nice.”