OMAHA, Neb. –– If the expectations go according to plan, Nick Madrigal will forever be mentioned in the same breath in the likes of Jose Altuve, Dustin Pedroia and Ozzie Albies.
Sure, at 5-foot-8 the height comparisons will always be there. But for Madrigal, it’s much more than that.
“You know, it’s not my goal,” Madrigal said when asked if he hopes to be compared to those players someday.But why? Between Altuve and Pedroia there’s a laundry list of MLB accolades that every ball player dreams of: MVP's, World Series rings, Silver Slugger awards, Golden Gloves, batting championships, stolen base leaders, and guys who are treated with the utmost respect from around the league. And Albies, in only his second season in the Majors, currently leads all second basemen in home runs.
“I’m focused on my style of play,” Madrigal said. “Those are some great players, especially what they’re doing every season. I’m focused on my goals.”
So, what exactly are the goals for the 2017 Pac-12 Player and Defensive Player of the Year, and the No. 4 overall pick in this year’s MLB draft?
“Coming into the season, coming into college really the only [goal] is to win a national championship. That’s one of the biggest reasons I came to college. None of my personal stuff matters at the point.”
This isn’t the first time Madrigal or Oregon State was on the doorstep of a national championship. Last season, the Beavers were one win away from clinching a spot in the 2017 College World Series championship series. They hadn’t lost a game in the entire tournament and needed to take one of two from LSU to advance.
That’s when Oregon State flatlined. The Beavers dropped both games (3-1, 6-1) and went a combined 5-for-59 (.085) from the plate. Madrigal went hitless in his five at-bats, but did manage to work three walks between the two games.
There are a lot of similarities between the 2017 and 2018 Beavers. Both arrived at Omaha playing their best baseball of the season, and from the bookends of each season were considered one of, if not the best team in all of college baseball.
Just don’t tell the Beavers that.
“Last year is last year. We all know it’s no secret that we lost one-third of our games last year here,” said Cadyn Grenier, Oregon State’s shortstop and Madrigal's middle infielder partner. “But that’s in the past.”
“I think we already are very motivated so that doesn’t add to any motivation,” Madrigal added about last year’s LSU series. “Coming into this season, we were set out for a national championship and getting back to Omaha and finishing it off.”
Nick Madrigal is going to be all of your favorite baseball players one day— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) June 4, 2018
This year’s Road to Omaha didn’t go exactly according to plan for Madrigal. After getting off to another standout season, a broken wrist sidelined him for 26 games from February 24-April 19.
Not even that could slow down him down. Madrigal still hit .397 on the season finished sixth on the Beavers in hits (56), second in triples (4), was a perfect 12-for-12 in stolen bases and had a 1.000 fielding percentage on the year.
And just as Madrigal goes, so do the Beavers. Oregon State has rolled through the tournament with a perfect 5-0 mark and has outscored its opponents by a combined score of 49-8 in Regionals and Super Regionals.
LSU stood in the Beavers’ path this year, too. In the Corvallis Regional, they beat the Tigers twice by scores of 14-1, and 12-0. Oregon State has clearly put 2017 in the past.
“This could be my last chance at getting a national championship,” Madrigal said. “We came close last year and that’s not enough for me. I came into college wanting to win national championship ... We’re here in this moment, I’m not going to look too far ahead.”
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Maybe someday we’ll be talking about Madrigal the same way we talk about Altuve, Albies and Predroia. The way he hits for average, the way he steals bases or the way he’s in the yearly discussion for a gold glove or silver slugger, or even an MVP.
But for now, he’s just Nick.
Looking to be his own person, looking to win a national championship.