Being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies was a dream come true for Nick Ferdinand.
The Langhorne native grew up just outside of the City of Brotherly Love, played high school baseball for Archbishop Ryan and then played collegiately just an hour south at the University of Delaware. As a Blue Hen, he shined enough so that the Phillies used a 35th-round pick on him in the 2013 MLB Draft.
Everything to that point worked out as well as he could've expected. Perhaps even better than he could've expected.
Since that day, however, Ferdinand's professional career took a different path. He never made it past high-A ball, hitting just .202 in 74 games with 31 RBIs and 54 strikeouts, and within two years he was no longer part of the Phillies organization.
Instead, he found himself doing whatever he could to stay relevant in a game that he invested so much time in.
His path took him to northern New York, where he played three games in the North Country Baseball League before York Revolution manager Mark Mason came calling.
"I came to a workout in York and (Mason) really liked me," Ferdinand said. "He wanted to give me another look and eventually signed me."
Still only 25, the 6-foot, 1-inch, 210-pound Ferdinand has time to right the ship in his pro career and he's hoping that it'll start in York.
Fueling his fire: Ferdinand had a new outlook on baseball when he trained during the offseason.
The thought of Philadelphia giving up on him after only two seasons still crosses his mind on a regular basis.
"I still expected to be with (the Phillies)," Ferdinand said. "I'm still a little upset. I have a chip on my shoulder about getting released by them. But it's understood. It's a business and you have to produce. It taught me a lot, with those failures last year and not having the success I've had."
Ferdinand recommitted himself to the game and used the pain of getting released to fuel his fire and prove that the Phils' organization made a mistake in letting him go. He was determined to make the game simple again and not put too much stock into streaks, hot or cold.
Playing in the Atlantic League is an unfamiliar level of competition for Ferdinand. For really the first time in his career, he's playing against guys who, for the most part, are much older than he is and have significantly higher levels of playing experience. He's surrounded by guys who've made it all the way to the big leagues, as well as players who've had long careers within affiliated ball. Unlike some of those guys, who are in the league hoping and praying to get one more shot with an MLB organization, Ferdinand is still trying to get his career going.
"This is my first real taste of that AA/AAA level," he said. "I was really excited to see what that was all about."
Making an impact: The ink was barely dry on Ferdinand's contract with the Revs by the time he made about as loud of a debut as a player can make — both literally and figuratively.
Just hours after agreeing to a deal with York last Friday, Ferdinand's first game with the club ended in dramatic fashion. With the Revs' tied against Sugar Land 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Ferdinand delivered a shot over the Arch Nemesis in left field to give York a 4-3, walk-off victory, sending the Santander Stadium crowd into a fit of euphoria and getting his first taste of Cannonball Charlie.
That was his only hit in the contest, going 1-for-4, but he came up big in a huge spot for a team desperately searching for wins. In six games with York, Ferdinand is 9-for-22 (.409) with a double, two home runs and three RBIs. His instant production for the club hasn't necessarily translated into many wins for the Revs, but it's certainly provided the offense a much-needed boost.
"I don't think you expect that production out of anybody right when they come in," Mason said. "But, I expected him to hit the ball. I expected him to hit the ball and not strike out. I thought he'd be a contact guy, so he's started off better than I thought he would."
Playing for the first time against much older competition, Ferdinand is fitting right in. With most of the players already in the swing of things and the season almost at the midway point, Ferdinand has been trying to play catch up. But he's acclimated well to the new surroundings, gotten comfortable and produced at a high level. A lot of that has to do with the guys on the York roster.
"It's been a blast playing with guys with a little more experience," he said. "It kind of heightens the competition a little bit. And it's just been easy to play around in this clubhouse. A lot of the guys are a fun group of guys to be around."
For most players, when they're in the Atlantic League, they're trying to be there for as short a time as possible. They're hoping for another shot with an MLB organization. But Ferdinand isn't looking at this opportunity like most players do — quickly put up some big numbers, get signed and get out. He sees this signing as a chance to revive a pro career that never truly got started.
He knows he has the potential to make it in affiliated ball. One team already saw enough of it to use a draft pick on him.
Now he just needs another to see the same thing.
"In times like this, just try to not do too much and do the same thing," Ferdinand said on what it will take to get back with an MLB organization. "Keep it simple and put good at-bats together. That's how I feel like long-term success can happen."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com