Baseball: First Hamptons League player reaches big leagues

07/07/2014 10:00 AM |
Nick Ahmed, who played for the University of Connecticut when he was a member of the Westhampton Aviators in 2009, was the first Hamptons League player to reach the big leagues. (Credit: Steve Slade/UConn Athletics)

Nick Ahmed, who played for the University of Connecticut when he was a member of the Westhampton Aviators in 2009, was the first Hamptons League player to reach the big leagues. (Credit: Steve Slade/UConn Athletics)

Brett Mauser had hoped the milestone moment would have come late last summer when Major League Baseball rosters expanded and clubs began calling up players from their farm system. Alas, it never happened.

As the 2014 MLB season unfolded, it quickly became apparent that the race was on. The Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League, now in its seventh year, was on the verge of seeing its first former player called up to the majors. 

The only question was who would it be? The race centered between a pair of Nicks — Nick Tropeano, a pitcher, and Nick Ahmed, a shortstop.

Mauser, the president of the league since 2012, began checking nearly every day, anxiously waiting for the call-up.

Finally, that moment came Sunday.

Ahmed, the highest drafted player in the league’s history, made his MLB debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks. A former standout at the University of Connecticut, Ahmed played for the Westhampton Aviators in 2009. Two summers later, he was a second-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves.

In his debut, the 24-year-old shortstop went 1 for 3 with a single in the seventh inning against San Diego.

“He was not only an outstanding athlete, but he exhibited the drive, even then, to reach his goal of playing in the majors,” said Mauser, who’s been affiliated with the league since 2009. “He was interested in not only perfecting his swing and perfecting his footwork, but also the mental side of the game.”

  • Page 3: See where some of the top alumni currently stand

Ahmed steadily climbed the ranks in the minors over the past three years. He played 59 games in rookie ball during the summer after being drafted. He was promoted to High A in 2012 for a full season. In January 2013, he was part of a trade from Atlanta to Arizona for all-star outfielder Justin Upton. He played a full season for Arizona’s Double-A team last summer. Then this summer, he batted .324 in Triple-A before his promotion to the big leagues.

The promotion came two days before the HCBL held its annual scout day, where the newest group of collegiate players got the chance to showcase their talents in front of about 14 scouts. Mauser said it was an all-time high.

“It’s a great sign,” he said. “It means they view this is as a league that has the caliber of players that they want to keep an eye on.”

As the league continues to grow, the number of alumni drafted grows with it. In the past two years, 38 former players were drafted into MLB. Mac James, who played for the Shelter Island Bucks last summer, was a sixth-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Last year’s HCBL champion, the North Fork Ospreys, ranked 44th on a list of the top summer collegiate baseball teams from across the country, according to perfectgame.org