Moving his way up
Dirt flies across the pitchers’ rubber and escapes into the air as Delmarva Shorebirds pitcher Nik Nowottnick’s metal spikes dig into the mound, getting a solid grip before the first pitch. The smooth feel of the leather ball rolls across his fingertips as his eyes look over the glove toward the catcher.
He’s decided on a pitch. The roar of the crowd increases. He lifts his head out from behind the glove and the ball flies out of his right hand, as he whips a 90 mph pitch, 60 feet toward home plate.
This is one of many scenarios that Nowottnick, a former Towson baseball standout, has gone through as he continues to live out his dream to play professional baseball. Nowottnick was always an athletic kid, playing any sport he could at the time.
“Baseball happened to be the sport that I was best at,” Nowottnick said. “As I got older, I began to play baseball year round on travel teams along with club ball.”
Nowottnick attended Colonel Richardson High School in Federalsburg, Maryland, where he was a member of the 2008 and 2009 teams that won back-to-back Bayside Conference titles. He also received pitcher of the year in 2009.
After finishing high school, Nowottnick headed to Chesapeake College. The right-handed pitcher led the Skipjacks to a 27-18 record season. He pitched 15 games spanning 59 innings and compiled 52 strikeouts.
Unfortunately, Nowottnick transferred into a Towson program that had the potential to be cut from the University. In 2012, Towson President Maravene Loeschke announced that the University’s baseball and men’s soccer teams would no longer be a part of Towson athletics.
“It was very difficult knowing that I transferred into a new program just before they announced that it was going to be cut,” he said. “It definitely motivated our team and brought us closer together.”
In June 2013, the former little leaguer’s baseball dreams started to become a reality when he received his first phone call offering him to sign a baseball contract.
“I was taken by surprise,” he said. “But, shortly after that I was extremely happy because it was the beginning of a lifelong dream of mine.”
On July 30, 2013, Nowottnick signed his first free-agent contract with the Gulf Coast League Orioles.
Now with the opportunity to play for a minor league team, Nowottnick continued to receive great support from the Tigers.
“The best thing I remember about the team and Coach [Mike] Gottlieb was the support that I received when they found out that I had the opportunity to sign a professional contract,” he said. “That meant a lot to me, especially after what the team went through in 2012.”
Towson has helped this pitcher experience a higher level of competition in baseball while traveling to North Carolina for the NCAA Regional Tournament.
He also had the support from his pitching coach, Scott Roane, who helped Nowottnick get noticed by the Orioles organization.
During the following year playing with the GCL Orioles, Nowottnick attended spring training in Sarasota, Florida and stayed in extended spring training until the roster for the Single-A Aberdeen IronBirds was released.
“I had been pitching really well in extended spring training, so I had a pretty good idea I would make the roster,” he said.
Nowottnick was added to the IronBirds roster, where he played 14 games, pitched 30 innings and ended with a 3.30 ERA.
“Getting to play for my hometown team is awesome because I have all of my family and friends really close and that’s a big deal for me,” he said. “Cal Ripken has also done a lot of amazing things in baseball, so it’s an honor to have played at the field he owns.”
Looking back, Nowottnick said he believes that every coach and team he has played for impacted his career. However, he does have a few regrets.
“If I could change anything, I would probably have reached out more in high school in order to have been seen by more scouts at the collegiate level,” he said.
With his dreams coming into focus, Nowottnick admits he has had quite the support system.
“My biggest supporters would have to be my mom and my girlfriend, but they are just at the top of a very long list of people who have helped me and supported me throughout my baseball career,” he said.
His biggest inspiration however comes from his dad, whom he lost at the age of 14.
“He was always there at every sporting event I was participating in and I know that what he did for me growing up still helps me to this day,” he said. “I try to make everything I do in baseball something that he would be proud of.”
Although Nowottnick is no longer playing for Towson, he continues to have ties with the Tigers as his girlfriend, Hailey Balk, is a senior infielder for the Tigers’ softball team.
With her busy schedule, Balk continues to support Nowottnick every chance she gets by attending all of his home games and watching his away games on the computer.
“It’s awesome to be a part of something with such significance and to watch him chase after his dreams,” Balk said. “It’s an amazing thing to see him evolve into a better player and a better person every day. I’m very proud of him and lucky to be a part of this experience in any way that I can.”
On Aug. 15, Nowottnick jumped on a plane and headed toward Salisbury, Maryland to play for the Delmarva Shorebirds, putting him one step closer to playing for the Major Leagues.
The pitcher made his Shorebirds’ debut the very next day with one strikeout, two hits and one run in one inning. Just another step along his dream journey.
“I have always been told to find something to do that you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life,” he said. “So far, this has proven to be a true statement because I get to play the game I love and every day that I show up to the field is just another day that I have the opportunity to live my dream.”