Vancouver Canadians Nick Podkul

Nick Podkul led the Vancouver Canadians with 28 walks in 2018.

cs_chat_new_logoThe latest player to check in on C’s Chat is 2018 Vancouver Canadians second baseman Nick Podkul.

Hailing from Munster, Indiana, the 6-foot-1 Podkul did his fare share of mashing before his arrival in professional baseball.  The right-handed hitter batted .417 and .411 in his sophomore and junior seasons at Andrean High School in Merrillville, Indiana.  Nick and his brother Frank helped the 59ers win the Indiana 3-A state titles during Nick’s junior year in 2014. The Podkul brothers played to honour their late father Frank who died of cancer at the age of 59.

Podkul felt his father—who played baseball and football at Wabash College—and brother played a big role in his success.

“I would say all of my coaches have helped me throughout my career but on a more personal level, I would say my Dad and my brother. Just from the days we were playing catch in the backyard to going through middle school, high school and all that. They kind of showed me not only how to be a good baseball player but how to be a good teammate and how to be a good person. I have to feel like those are lessons that I have to take them with me and have helped me to come to where I am today.”

Vancouver Canadians Nick Podkul

Nick Podkul stands at second after hitting of his 10 doubles for Vancouver in 2018.

Irish Eyes Are Smiling

After leading the 59ers to another 3A state title in 2015, Perfect Game rated Podkul the second-best shortstop in the state of Indiana. A three letterwinner in basketball, Podkul committed to play baseball in South Bend, Indiana with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. His freshman year in 2016 saw him get on base at a .413 clip and he moved around the diamond by seeing time at first and third base.

After his first season with the Fighting Irish, Pokdul played summer collegiate ball with the Battle Creek Bombers of the Northwoods League. His time with the Michigan-based club saw him sock six home runs and posted an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .825.

2017 saw Podkul hit for more power with Notre Dame as his extra-base total increased from seven to 22 in his sophomore season, including his first five home runs of his college career. He compiled a 27 game on-base streak and stole 10 bases in 12 attempts.

Podkul would pad his resume with an impressive summer for the Morehead City Marlins of the Coastal Plain League. He slugged .543 in 151 at-bats after clubbing nine home runs and eight doubles and won the Most Valuable Player Award at the CPL All-Star Game. Baseball America rated Podkul as the number two prospect in the CPL. The publication praised Podkul for his “above-average contact ability thanks to a solid approach at the plate and lightning-fast hands.” That solid performance at the dish was illustrated by drawing 23 walks against 22 strikeouts.

The 2018 campaign saw Podkul emerge as the Golden Domers’ leader in the slash categories with a batting line of .312/.433/.525. He also led the Leprechauns with 40 runs batted in and finished third on the team with eight homers. His batting eye continued to be sharp with 33 free passes against 32 whiffs. He also stole nine bases in 11 tries and showed an ability to take one for the team by getting hit with 13 pitches after being plunked 15 times the year before. For that performance, Podkul was named to the Second All-ACC team. Notre Dame coach Mik Aoki attributed Podkul’s success to

Podkul said being with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish carried its fair share of perks.

“It’s awesome. In the ACC, you get to play some of the best teams in the country. You get to travel to some really cool spots. Notre Dame has a really big alumni and we got to do a lot of cool things. We got to go to the Navy bases and we go on the road to LSU and they’d have an alumni dinner for us. There are just fans all across the country who are pulling for you so it was a really good experience.”

Vancouver Canadians Nick Podkul

Nick Podkul had a line drive of over 23 percent according to FanGraphs.

Turning Pro

On the recommendation of scout Matthew Huck, the Toronto Blue Jays took Podkul with their seventh round pick in the 2018 MLB draft. Podkul was at home with his family when he was selected.

“I was just kind of waiting for a call. I had a pretty good idea that I was going to go but obviously I wasn’t totally sure. I was just watching the computer waiting for my name to be called and then luckily the Jays got me. I had a little celebration with my family so it was a great day. After my name got called, we invited some more friends and family over and just hung out and made a night out of it.”

Before the draft, Podkul grew up as a Chicago Cubs fan where he enjoyed the rivalry with the crosstown White Sox. However, he feels the rivalry has lost a bit of its lustre as of late.

“I feel it’s been cooling down the past couple of years because the White Sox aren’t the same team they used to be. I don’t know that’s me being biased. I just remember when I was a kid, whenever the White Sox and the Cubs would come on, I’d be watching every single game on TV or even if I got tickets to go. It was a huge rivalry. My brother was a White Sox fan, I was a Cubs fan. You can fill in the blank on how the house was when that series came up.”

Podkul’s allegiance switched to Toronto after receiving a $175,000 signing bonus. He headed down to Dunedin, Florida to begin his life in the Blue Jays nest.

“It was just really exciting to be able to start off your pro career. You don’t really know what to expect. It all happens really quick too. A couple days after you get drafted, you head down there. They throw you right into it. We had our physical the first day and then after that, we were out on the field doing stuff, 6:00 am to 3:00 (pm). It was a lot of fun, a lot of hard work and it was a dream come true, honestly.”

Vancouver Canadians Nick Podkul

Nick Podkul drew a walk in just over 14 percent of his plate appearances in 2018.

Following Footsteps

Podkul’s first pro assignment was Vancouver and he got a scouting report about the city from a former college teammate and C’s second baseman.

“I talked to Cavan Biggio because he was at Notre Dame and so he told me about Vancouver. He said it’s a lot of fun, the fans are great and just a great atmosphere to play in. I had high expectations coming in and I could say that those expectations were definitely met.”

Podkul expressed his gratitude of having Biggio showing him the ropes when they were together during Podkul’s freshman season in 2016.

“He’s a great guy, a great baseball player. Just a guy I could always go to if I needed help with something baseball or just talk to him as a friend. He’s a really good guy. When I got drafted, he said if you ever need anything, kind of show me the ropes and stuff and I’ll always be there for you. It’s good to have a guy like that who’s older than you and he’s been through the situations you’re going through.”

Podkul also embraces the comparisons made between Biggio and himself coming out of South Bend.

“I would say so. I think probably just because we went to the same college and had the same coaches. I was coming in as a freshman and he was a junior. I’d guess you’d say he’s kind of like a role model to me and I kind of looked up to him and want to follow in his footsteps and kind of model my game after him.”

Vancouver Canadians Nick Podkul

Nick Podkul made 43 of his 50 starts at second base in 2018.

Pro Debut

Podkul began his pro career with a bang by tripling in just his second at-bat in Eugene June 16 and finished a home run short of the cycle the very next night.

After an on-base percentage of .388 and a slugging percentage of .462 during a dozen games in June, Podkul endured a tough July that saw him hit just .149 despite hitting his first pro home run in Boise July 14 and his first dinger at Nat Bailey Stadium July 22.

“Yeah, I definitely hit a rough patch and had a pretty big slump for awhile but that’s baseball. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about it because it’s just like game after game you’re not seeing the results that you want to, it’s pretty tough but we got a really good group of guys who are picking me up, saying ‘You’re going to be fine, you’re going to be fine.’

I think what got me through it was just like investing in the team and trying not to worry about myself and how I can help the team win. If it’s like a defensive play or even drawing a walk, getting on base late in a game.

At the end of the day, (it’s) just having a positive mindset because if you have a negative mindset going in, you’re not going to succeed so it took me a while to finally get over the results and just worry about the process. I feel like since then I’ve been doing a lot better.”

Podkul would get the bat going again with an 11-game hitting streak as part of a string of 16 straight games in which he reached base. Among the highlights was his third homer of the season in Tri-City August 20.

Podkul also contributed with the glove by taking part in 30 double plays, including one on the catch of the year made by Brandon Polizzi in a game against Boise August 25. Podkul was the middle man of the 8-4-3 double play with Jake Brodt.

“It was a great play by Brandon. The shortstop and I were running towards the left-center gap because we thought it was going to be a double so we were going for the double cut. He laid out and made a great play and then got up and threw it. I knew that it was going to be a really long throw. I think it was raining that day so it was wet. I just busted over to be the cut-off guy and luckily I got there in time and then Jake Brodt got back to first and we got the double play. I figured if he was going to throw it all the way over there, that’d be one hell of a throw so I figured I might as well be there and help him out.”

Podkul spent the majority of his time on the diamond at second base but he did get seven starts at the hot corner.

“I played third base a bit in college but at the end of the day, it’s just catch ball, throw ball. There’s obviously a difference in you’re closer at third, you have more time at second, stuff like that. Just what you do in pre-game, how you prepare for it kind of sets the tone for how you’re going into the game but at the end of the day, wherever they’re going to put me, I’m happy.”

Podkul is expected to play much closer to home in 2019 with the Lansing Lugnuts in the Midwest League. He will turn 22 years old on April 11.

Thanks again to Nick Podkul for participating in this episode of C’s Chat and to C’s Media Relations Assistant Sharlene Canning for setting up the interview.