Features

In the zone

By Adam Grybowski | Fall 2019

For the first time in as long as he could remember, Nick Margevicius ’17 looked to the stands and couldn’t find his parents.

Stepping off the mound in the sixth inning at Petco Park, he had just completed his major league debut as the starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres. It was March 30. Over five complete innings against the San Francisco Giants, he allowed three hits and one run and struck out five. Margevicius’ parents, Mark and Marigene, are fixtures at their son’s games, but even though they were in attendance, they were masked by almost 42,000 cheering fans.

Thinking about that day, Margevicius says his favorite memory is standing in the bullpen before the game, listening to the national anthem. He was only 22 years old and almost in shock that he was about to compete at the highest level in a game that he loved even as a small child.

“It’s the same game you’ve played your whole life, but the level of play is higher and the margin of error is much smaller,” he says. “If you make a mistake in the minors, you can get away with it more. The major league hitters aren’t perfect, but they’re going to hit good pitches more often. It's obviously challenging, but it’s really fun to play against the best in the world.”

Margevicius grew up in a suburb of Cleveland. Photos of him as a toddler show him wearing Indians jerseys. He started pitching at 6. By the time he started playing at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, he was working closely with his coaches at developing his skills on the mound. He pitched a perfect game as a sophomore and earned pitcher of the year honors in his junior and senior seasons.

Like many young athletes, he nursed dreams of becoming a professional athlete but admits that even in high school it was probably more aspirational than realistic. He was committed, however, to continue playing in college, and his goal was to join a program at the highest level. With the help of his father, Margevicius began a deliberate search to find a Division I school where he could play regularly and continue developing as a pitcher.

Growing up almost 500 miles away from Rider, Margevicius had never heard of the University when he began his search, but it made his list. It was one of three schools he planned to visit on a trip to the East Coast after his junior year. Rider had produced, before him, six baseball players who appeared in the major leagues. Margevicius arrived at the University in August. “The weather was good, the campus looked great and from my perspective, it wasn’t that much different than home,” he recalls. He gelled with Barry Davis, the head coach, and his staff, and Rider was prepared to offer him a scholarship.

“A big mix of things all went right at the same time,” Margevicius says. He decided to commit to becoming a Bronc before the start of his senior year of high school.

Looking back on this decision, Margevicius believes the biggest risk he took was social: He simply didn’t know anyone at Rider other than the coaches. But after he started, he quickly fell in with his teammates and classmates. He also met his fiancee at Rider. Shannon Kelly '17 was a psychology major and a midfielder on the women's soccer team. They have a fall wedding planned, after the baseball season wraps.

“I have a great group of friends I wouldn’t have had if I never went to Rider,” Margevicius says. “Nowhere else offered me the opportunities that Rider did, and even now, I wouldn’t change the experience I had at all.”

As a Bronc, Margevicius pitched 65 innings in his first year and posted a record of five wins and four losses. After his freshman year, he played summer ball and fared well against competition from players who, at first glance, may have appeared out of his league. He played so well, in fact, that Margevicius wondered to himself why it wouldn’t be possible for him to continue moving ahead as a professional player. Then a scout contacted him, and from that moment on, Margevicius was focused on the major league draft.

He set ambitious goals for himself, in addition to the work he was already putting in on the field. Margevicius, who is 6’5” and now weighs 220 pounds, began scheduling the majority of his classes at night so he could work on strength training and conditioning during the day. “Discipline allows you to do what you want to do when you want to do it because you hold yourself to a standard,” he says. “The other part of the equation is sacrifice — you have to be willing to sacrifice.”

Margevicius was selected in the seventh round as the 198th overall pick of the 2017 Major League Baseball draft. He was the 64th Rider baseball player to be selected in the MLB draft.

Up until he became focused on achieving this goal, Margevicius had been planning for a career in finance after he graduated. The draft has potentially upended those plans permanently, but Margevicius was always steadfast in the pursuit of his degree, and he speaks with genuine enthusiasm about his academic experience. In the spring semester of his junior year, he took six classes — half of them in finance, his major. He had to return to Rider after being drafted to finish his degree by completing an independent study with his adviser, Dr. Mitchell Ratner, a professor and the chair of Rider’s Department of Finance and Economics.

Through August, Margevicius played in a total of 16 games with the Padres. He has been sent down to the minors, and then brought back up again — an emotional rollercoaster that he has handled with equanimity. “It’s difficult not always knowing what’s going on, but that’s part of being a young guy,” he says. “The established veteran guys will tell you that, for the first couple of years, this is how it is. You go through it and you deal with it.”

Margevicius is aware that his meteoric rise is not common. At the time of his debut, only one other selection from the 2017 draft, Kyle Wright of the Atlanta Braves, had made his big league debut.

“There’s plenty of time,” Margevicius says. “I’ve gotten an experience that most people have not. I’m not dwelling on the ups and downs. I’m focusing on the experience and what has made me successful and what I need to work on to be successful more consistently.”

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