GLENDALE, Ariz. – There are roughly three-and-a-half years separating the Quintana brothers from Las Vegas – older brother Zach celebrated his 19th birthday in April while younger brother Nicholas enjoyed his 16th birthday in October.
Like a lot of younger brothers, especially baseball-playing younger brothers, Nicholas Quintana has nothing but admiration for his older brother, and for good reason. Right-hander Zach Quintana was a third-round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft right out of Arbor View High School and spent last summer pitching for Helena in the Rookie-level Pioneer League.
Nicholas, now a sophomore at Arbor View, closely watched his older brother’s path to professional baseball and must have taken some detailed notes. He spent this weekend at the Perfect Game National Underclass Showcase-Session 1 as he tries to follow in Zach’s footsteps.
“He’s had a huge impact on me,” Nicholas told PG after the event’s workout session at Camelback
Ranch. “He opens the gates for me; sometimes people see ‘Quintana’ and they think he’s my older brother. He’s given me a lot of input on what coaches look for and what they want you to do and what they don’t want you to do. I’ll work out and he’ll say ‘Don’t do this, don’t do this,’ … and I listen to everything he tells me and hopefully it will get me somewhere.”
While still a very young and blossoming prospect, it would appear Nicholas Quintana has already arrived “somewhere”. He came into the PG National Underclass-Session 1 as the class of 2016’s No. 33-ranked national prospect (No. 2 in the state of Nevada) and has already verbally committed to the University of Southern California. He was at this event last year and also attended the PG Sunshine West Showcase in Chula Vista, Calif., in early June.
“I want to show myself and show everyone that I have the skills to go to the next level,” Nicholas said. “Everyone should expose themselves (on the field) at some time, and this is a great showcase, a great vibe and this is the place to be.
“The more showcases you do, the more butterflies you get out and the more relaxed you are,” he continued. “You don’t get all these jitters in front of all these scouts and sometimes you’ll do bad and sometimes you’ll do good, but it’s just easier the second time around.”
Nicholas made the trip to the chilly desert Southwest with his father Martin who, like his youngest son, sees the value in these showcase experiences.
“As a parent, I can tell you that just the exposure PG brings is phenomenal,” Martin said. “We take advantage of it, and because of that exposure … and mainly because of PG he’s verbally committed to USC, and our oldest Zach also attended PG events. I believe in that exposure and the opportunity to showcase yourself and it’s something we want to keep doing … if we can.”
Nicholas is listed at 5-foot-10, 165-pounds in this event’s official program, and it’s a solid 5-10, 165. He’s a primary shortstop and middle-infielder but that wasn’t always the case. He said when he first started playing club baseball as a seventh-grader he was a third baseman, but after a switch of teams he became a shortstop. He’s one of those guys that seem to be able to make the right adjustments necessary to feel comfortable at just about any position.
“Every year since my freshman year I’ve gotten a little bit bigger, I’ve gotten a little quicker,” Nicholas said. “… All around I think I’m getting a little bit better every day.”
He was especially impressive during Saturday’s batting practice session in which he belted a pair of home runs. A PG scout noted that:
“We've seen (Quintana) hit before so it was no surprise when he turned in one of the top two BP rounds of the day, highlighted by blasting the final two pitches over the left field fence. He is deceptively strong for his age and size and has a very simple and direct swing to the ball that enables him to square the ball up very consistently. Quintana is one of the most polished and talented hitters in the 2016 class.”
Nicholas Quintana looks destined to make his name as a hitter and slick fielding infielder whereas Zach Quintana established himself on the strength of his right arm. Although their positions are different their approach and paths have been almost identical.
Zach got his showcase feet wet at the 2010 PG National Games in San Diego followed by an appearance at the 2012 Perfect Game National Showcase in Fort Myers.
“I never imagined that they would be at that level, but my expectations versus everyone else’s expectations are different,” Martin said. “We talk about just being humbled and they’re both humbled, but we kind of keep things low and we don’t really talk about the high expectations. Other people put those expectations on them and I don’t see them that way as a parent.
“It’s been a great experience; we’re enjoying the ride and it’s great that we’re able to give them that opportunity,” he said, speaking of himself and his wife Susie. “It’s been phenomenal for them and they work very hard for them and we’re just along for the ride. We give them the support that they need and we make the sacrifices to make these things happen.”
Nicholas has fond memories of growing up and playing ball with his big brother, recalling that Zach included his little brother in games with his friends. Nicholas said he hoped he might be able to play alongside Zach at the high school level when Zach was a senior and he was a freshman, but that didn’t work out.
“He’s always been a little better than me (and) just being the older brother he knows more,” Nicholas said with an appreciative smile. “He’s gone through the showcases, he’s playing professionally in the Rookie-ball system, and now I feel like I have to step up and show him what I’m capable of.”
Martin notices both similarities and differences in his sons:
“(Nicholas is) just a different type of player; he’s more laid back but he’s also very easy going,” Martin said. “His work ethic is also very high and I have to tell him to slow down because my arm can only last so long going to the batting cages; I can’t do that every day. … With Zach it was kind of a learning experience and with (Nicholas) we’re kind of doing things a little bit differently.”
The brothers are also good students, and Zach had signed with San Diego State before deciding to accept the Brewers’ offer and turn pro. Nicholas carries a 3.50 GPA and said the course of study he hopes to pursue figured in prominently when chose USC.
“I felt it was good place – good vibe, great education,” he said. “I want to go into business and law and major in that and it’s a great school with great athletics, great academics and it was a good fit for me.”
Martin said he and his wife’s emphasis is now on making sure that Nicholas continues to well in school and that he should make sure baseball is second – albeit a very close second – to his work in the classroom. They also want to make sure Nicholas stays relaxed and has fun with the game because, after all, it is just a game regardless of how lucrative it eventually can become.
“My wife and I just tell him to keep things simple and keep things in perspective and go out there and have fun and play loose,” Martin said.
Nicholas certainly seemed to be playing loose this weekend, even if the unusually chilly bite in the desert air sometimes made that difficult. Like his brother before him, he was solidly in his element.
“I love these showcases,” Nicholas said. “It’s more calm – high school can be a little bit more hostile with parents and all that stuff – and with showcases you can just come out here and show what you’re capable of. If you do good, you do good, and if you do bad it’s all right, you just move on to the next one. These (showcases) are just great all-around.”
“It’s been fun; it’s been fun as a dad,” Martin added. “(Nicholas) puts in a lot of work and it’s paying off, so he’s realizing that if he puts in the work things are going to happen.” Just like they did for Nicholas’ older brother.