College Sports

State College grad Nick Raquet selected by Washington Nationals in MLB draft

State College grad Nick Raquet became the third-highest draft pick in William & Mary history on Tuesday after the Washington Nationals selected him in the third round.
State College grad Nick Raquet became the third-highest draft pick in William & Mary history on Tuesday after the Washington Nationals selected him in the third round. Courtesy of William & Mary

As Nick Raquet gained a sense for when he might be selected in this year’s MLB draft, the State College grad thought it was important to watch the event from his hometown.

His parents had moved to Florida for work and to be closer to family, and they thought it was a great idea. So the family returned to Boalsburg for the draft, giving the left-handed pitcher the chance to stop by the various fields and workout facilities where he developed his ability growing up and to share the moment with his loved ones.

The Raquets stayed with friends down the street from their old home and watched in the living room as the Washington Nationals selected Nick in the third round with the 103rd pick Tuesday afternoon.

“When I heard my name come up, it was goosebumps,” Raquet said. “It’s been chills. It was one of the greatest feelings to be able to hug my mom, hug my dad, hug my brother and just kind of be in that moment and celebrate it. It was something I’ll never forget.”

Raquet said Tuesday wouldn’t have felt the same if he wasn’t in his hometown, where he dreamed of playing professional baseball at a young age. He started to see the possibility when he was in high school — before going on to play in college at North Carolina and William & Mary. He cherished this past season at William & Mary as he regained his confidence on the mound as a redshirt sophomore and played with his younger brother, freshman outfielder Brandon Raquet. Now, Nick is excited to start his professional career in the Nationals organization.

“Everything kind of lined up perfectly, and I hope to call Washington a home one day,” he said.

The Raquets called Centre County home until Raquet’s brother graduated from high school. His parents, Rob and Liz Raquet, then moved to Florida, but Nick will often thank his father “out of the blue” for raising him in Boalsburg. During his time back in town for the draft, Nick took the time to visit the Little League and high school fields, and he went to the buildings used by Troy Allen for their training sessions.

He sat outside and visualized himself walking into those buildings years ago and dragging himself out to drive home late at night after the grueling workouts that shaped him into a pro prospect. He talked with his father about the highs and lows of his career.

“It just kind of helped me reminisce about some stuff and really kind of let everything sink in that this is the place that made me who I am today,” Nick Raquet said.

When Raquet met Allen in the winter of his junior year of high school, the left-handed pitcher was hoping to receive any college offer. Allen told him that he thought Raquet could pitch in the big leagues. Raquet became one of the first players Allen trained at Mincemoyer Barn, and the coach helped him develop into a top recruit. Raquet threw 86-87 mph at the start of their workouts, but he was hitting 92-93 in the summer after improving his mechanics and adding weightlifting to his routine under Allen.

Allen pushed his players to the edge during workouts with sled work and tire flips to go with drills on mechanics. Raquet said it was a no-nonsense atmosphere during the two-hour workouts — “There were a lot of days where I was afraid to go because I knew that I was going to get my butt kicked,” he said — and Allen watched as Raquet and current Nebraska pitcher Chad Luensmann tried to outwork each other.

“That kid has the heart of a lion, and he will battle and battle and battle until he gets what he wants,” Allen said of Raquet. “Those are the kind of traits that make major league pitchers.”

Allen, who is now the State College baseball coach, was one of the first people Raquet called after he was selected Tuesday. A few hours earlier, Raquet received a call from the Nationals — informing him of their plans to take him in the third round. He was at the Shaner Complex off of Route 322 at the time, playing baseball to stay distracted on draft day.

He later watched with his family when the Nationals made the selection official.

“I still have a numb feeling about, ‘Did this actually happen to us?’” Rob, his father, said. “It’s tough to describe. It’s something that I never, ever expected, and it’s something that he worked so hard for because he wanted it.”

Raquet said he knows Tuesday only marks the start of his pro career — the left-handed pitcher has a long way to go to make Washington his home. But he called it one of the best days of his life and made sure to enjoy the moment with family and friends.

“It’s been worth every single ounce of sweat, all the tears, all the ups and downs,” Raquet said. “It’s been really rewarding.”

Local ties

The three-day MLB draft continued Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The draft will finish Wednesday with Rounds 11-40. Here’s a look at some players from central Pennsylvania selected so far:

Deon Stafford (Lower Dauphin HS; fifth round, Pittsburgh Pirates), St. Joseph’s catcher and Harrisburg native who hit .288 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs in 2017.

Hunter Schryver (Cumberland Valley HS; seventh round; Tampa Bay Rays), left-handed pitcher out of Villanova who went 4-6 with a 2.44 ERA in 2017.

Jacob Belinda (Tyrone HS; 10th round, Atlanta Braves), right-handed pitcher out of Lock Haven who went 6-2 with a 4.72 ERA in 2017.

Raquet’s 2017 stats

State College grad Nick Raquet was selected in the third round of the MLB draft by the Washington Nationals on Tuesday, making him the third-highest draft pick in William & Mary history. Here’s a look at the left-handed pitcher’s statistics during his redshirt sophomore season with the Tribe:

Appearances/starts: 16/14

Innings: 77  1/3

ERA: 4.66

Record: 2-2

Strikeouts: 95 (led team)

Walks: 45