Diodati rolls on at Alabama
Owen Diodati quickly established himself at the University of Alabama under less than ideal conditions.
The 19-year-old Niagara Falls native had a productive freshman season that saw him hit .309 (17-55) with three doubles, a triple and five home runs in his 17 games of action, including 14 starts. He also added 22 runs batted in, scored 13 runs and walked 13 times. He was named the SEC (South East Conference) Co-Freshman of the Week (Feb. 17) and at season’s end, was selected as a freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball News.
But that was only the beginning for Diodati, who was picked in the 29th round of the Major League draft last June by Toronto, but opted for a full scholarship at Alabama.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced collegiate sports to the sidelines in March, all Diodati could do was work out as best as he could at first and concentrate on his schooling, where he is majoring in accounting and finance. He took advantage of the extra time, excelled in the classroom and was a member of the 2020 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll.
“The whole spring when the quarantine started I lived with one of my teammates and his family and ended up staying with them all through the summer until we went back to school,” Diodati said this weekend at Bullett Proof Academy in Welland, where he stopped by to help out the Niagara Falls Falcons U18 quad. “It was awesome.”
Come the summer, Diodati and several of his Crimson Tide teammates suited up for the East Coast Sox in a summer league in Mississippi.
“It was an alternative for guys whose leagues were cancelled and it was really competitive,” Diodati said. “A lot of good players, mostly southern kids, and it was good just to get out and play.
“We had a ton of guys in that league and I really feel we got better than most teams in college baseball because we had more guys playing that anyone else.”
Diodati finished his season with the Sox before heading back to school for his second year, although he is still considered a freshman because the NCAA extended an extra year of eligibility to athletes due to the pandemic.
“We went back on campus and there were a lot of regulations,” he said. “We were tested every week. It was a real thorough process to bring us back. We were lucky enough toward the end of the fall, we weren’t having many cases, so with masks we were able to have a pretty successful and productive fall.”
The Crimson Tide played a fall practice inter-squad season that culminated when Diodati delivered a two-out, two-RBI double late in the final frames of Alabama baseball’s Fall World Series to give Crimson a 8-6 win over Gray at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
Diodati returned home in late November to enjoy the holidays with his family. Alabama will return to the diamond in January to begin preparations for the 2021 season.
Diodati said it’s a matter of discipline to keep hitting the gym while the situation with the coronavirus plays itself out.
“It’s hard to get pumped and excited to work in a cage for an hour and a half instead of being outside and playing. It’s definitely different and takes dedication,” he said.
“The way I look at it, these are the times when it’s the hardest for everyone to put in the work and get better, but these are also the times when it’s easiest to make gains on the guys you are competing with and get ahead of others based on the fact if you work hard now and outwork guys now, it’s going to show up on the field.”
Diodati is confident the Crimson Tide will see some regular season action at some point in 2021.
“We’re not really crystal clear what our season is going to look like yet,” he said. “Obviously the vaccine coming out is going to have an impact on what our season is going to look like but I do believe we will play in some capacity this year. It’s just a matter of how cases and numbers line up at the time. I’m not really sure exactly when we’re going to know what that season is going to look like but I’m excited to get back.”
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