By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It was quite the professional baseball debut for Temple product Steve Nikorak Wednesday night out in Great Falls, Montana.
Serving as the DH and batting 7th for the Rookie League affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, the Great Falls Voyagers, Nikorak went 3-5 with a home run, four runs batted in and four runs scored as the Voyagers beat Helena 11-7.
This performance came hours after Nikorak talked to KYW Newsradio about what his life has been like since he became the first Temple baseball player selected in the MLB Draft since 2009.
“It’s been a great couple of weeks,” Nikorak said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s real exciting to be out here and it’s been something I’ve waited for for a long time. So to get to start to live the dream I’ve been waiting for, it’s been real exciting.”
Listen to Matt Leon’s full interview with Steve Nikorak:
Nikorak was taken by the White Sox earlier this month in the 32nd round with the 981st overall pick. He says he was with friends and family watching the broadcast of the draft on one computer while keeping an eye on the draft tracker on another when his name came through.
“We were sitting there and I knew the White Sox were my best chance. So we were listening closely for every 13th pick (White Sox draft position) in each round and it was mayhem, pretty much, in the living room when it happen. It was exciting. A good experience, glad I got to share it with my family.”
Nikorak was a versatile performer for much of his career at Temple, playing first and third base while also spending a lot of time on the mound. Eventually it was determined that he would focus solely on being a position player and it is hard to argue with the decision. In 2012, Nikorak hit .302 and he led the Owls in hits (62), doubles (14), home runs (7) and RBI (42). He left Temple as the program’s all-time leader in doubles with 65 and his 228 hits placed him 4th on the program’s all-time list. The 6’2″, right-handed hitter takes his success in stride.
“Honestly, I just try to go and work hard every day,” Nikorak says. “I try to be a good teammate and do whatever I can to help the team win. I think I’ve been a pretty good leader up until this point and I just try to go to the field every day with a really strong work ethic and like I said, I just try and get better each and every day.”
In addition to the adjustment to pro baseball, there is also a social adjustment for Nikorak. Needless to say, Great Falls is a little different than Philadelphia.
“It’s beautiful out here in Montana. Really not too much going on, but we’ve got 73 games this year so I don’t really need too much extra on my plate. It’s exciting though. It’s nice to be out here and see different parts of the country. I was in Arizona for a week long mini-camp and then we flew up here to Montana, to Great Falls. It’s a beautiful part of the country that I’ve never been in before, so I’m happy to be out here.”
After that performance in his debut, it’s probably safe to assume that the Great Falls Voyagers are happy he is there too.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.