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Baseball: Former SWR standout hits the top of the chart

Nick Bottari is a man on the move. He has moved from school to school, from team to team, and this summer moved to the top of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League in batting average.

Given what the former Shoreham-Wading River High School player has been through this year, that might come as a surprise to some, but not to Bottari.

“I always have the expectation to be one of the better hitters, wherever I’m playing,” he said, sounding confident, not cocky.

Bottari, who lives in Wading River, is spending his summer playing for the Westhampton Aviators. It won’t be long, though, before the first baseman is on the move again.

Bottari attended Shoreham-Wading River High School and played for the Wildcats up to his junior year before transferring to a prep school in Florida, Montverde Academy. After graduating from Montverde in 2014, he red-shirted his freshman year at the University of Miami for one year because of Tommy John surgery on his right arm. He then transferred to Hofstra, where he played the last two years. This past season he had a .271/.319/.400 slash line with two home runs and 11 RBIs in 22 games for the Pride. But his college season was cut short about midway through because of a concussion he sustained while colliding with a catcher when they both chased after a pop fly. Bottari’s head struck the catcher’s mask.

Bottari, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, eased into this, his first HCBL season. He said he wanted to simplify his swing and get back into a groove.

Mission accomplished.

Through Monday, he led the league with a .457 batting average in addition to four homers, 23 RBIs, 16 runs scored and nine doubles. In a doubleheader sweep of the North Fork Ospreys on Sunday, he went 4-for-5 with three RBIs (two of them coming on a homer he launched), two runs scored and a walk.

“He’s one heck of a player and I’m so happy that we’re able to showcase his skills,” Westhampton coach Dan Luisi said. “One of the things that we talked about right when he got here was his plate discipline and his approach. He’s one of those kids that are swinging at good pitches. With his strength and his barrel speed, he’s hard to get out.”

Bottari is clearly enjoying his time with the defending league champions, who sit in first place in their pursuit of what would be their fourth league title.

“This summer has been amazing,” he said. “I wanted to play local just so my parents and everybody could see me play again before I head down to Florida. I tell my parents this all the time, that playing in this league has been the best decision that I’ve ever done because out here in Westhampton they do everything right.”

Bottari will soon be on the move again. He will not return to Hofstra. Instead, he has transferred to Southeastern University, an NAIA school in Lakeland, Florida.

Over the course of his travels, Bottari said he has learned to put the game in perspective. “I learned that although baseball is a big part of my life, it’s a very small part of my life in the grand scheme of things,” he said. “If I [went] 0-for-4 one day when I was in high school, it was literally the end of the world. Now, looking back on it, the things that I went through, the things that my family went through, it’s definitely still very important to me, but after a bad game, I can take a second and realize, alright, it’s just a game. I have tomorrow to come back and try to do a better job at the plate or a better job in the field.”

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Photo caption: Through Monday, former Shoreham-Wading River High School player Nick Bottari led the HCBL with a .457 batting average. (Credit: Bill Landon)