Good luck slipping one past Nick Fink.
With a sterling fielding percentage of 99.4 percent, Fink, a Whitewater High School alum, has been named the NJCAA Gold Glove Award winner at first base for Georgia Highlands College.
“When I found out that I won the Gold Glove for the entire nation, I was honestly very surprised and super stoked to be able to not only represent Georgia Highlands but also the state of Georgia,” said Fink.
The award wasn’t a surprise to his coach, Dash O’Neill.
“As the national Gold Glove winner at first base, he is clearly an exceptional defensive player with tremendous hands and footwork around the bag,” said O’Neill. “Most people associate good play at first base solely on how well a player can pick balls in the dirt or by their reach on throws around the bag. Nick does those obvious things as well as anyone, but what separates him are his instincts, aggressiveness, and his athleticism. He’s always in great position to receive throws, and his athleticism allows him to play much farther off the bag than your typical first baseman.”
Fink was steady with his bat as well, hitting .245 with a .367 on-base percentage, 5 home runs, 28 RBI, and 14 stolen bases.
“On top of his defensive prowess, Nick also has tremendous power at the plate and runs well enough to steal bases, so he’s a very dynamic player,” said O’Neill.
The consummate team player was voted as Team Captain heading into the season, helping to lead the Chargers to the first Conference and District Championships in the history of the junior college, along with a 12th place national ranking.
He gives a heap of credit to the men in charge.
“The key to Georgia Highlands having the season that we had was no doubt the coaching,” said Fink. “Coach Dash O’Neill is by far the greatest coach I have ever had the opportunity to play for. He is a great person who truly has a love for the game and his players. Georgia Highlands was prepared for any baseball situation that would occur in a game.
“We were physically and mentally prepared to go out on the field and compete.”
Compete they did. Fink had to battle through plenty himself. Trying to duck out of the way of an inside pitch in a game against Abraham Baldwin College, he completely tore his left meniscus. With three weeks left in the season, he gutted it out through intense pain, even rebuilding his batting stance so he could keep playing. In his first game with the new stance, he hit a home run.
“What kept me playing through my knee injury was knowing that my team was heavily relying on me to not only play great defense, but also put in quality at bats,” he said.
Fink didn’t do it alone. He had some familiar faces in the dugout with him as he was joined by a group of high school teammates that helped push the Chargers to an excellent season. Brandon Bell, Colby Taylor, Evan Mask, Jeremiah Woods, and Hunter White, who redshirted this year, combined to help give the team a bit of Wildcat flavor.
“Playing with Brandon, Colby, Evan, Jeremiah, and Hunter through my two years of junior college was spectacular,” said Fink. “We all have a lifelong friendship together, and being able to win a conference championship together is something I will never forget.”
That Whitewater pipeline is one that Coach O’Neill hopes keeps flowing.
“I was fortunate enough to have inherited these players when I accepted the job at Georgia Highlands last fall, but it is clear to me that Rusty Bennett and his staff do an excellent job of preparing players for the next level,” said O’Neill. “Every one of these young men works hard, is respectful, and has been a pleasure to work with. I hope that I can continue to draw on the talent that the Whitewater program and Coach Bennett are developing down there.”
Having finished up his two-year JuCo stint at Georgia Highlands, Fink is excited to continue his baseball journey at LaGrange College next year. There, he’ll be working towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. After his playing career is over, Nick plans to pursue a career as a Nurse Anesthetist. His reasoning is simple and sweet.
“I get to help people out who are in need,” he said. “I simply enjoy patient care and being able to make a difference in people’s life.”
The impact he made on the diamond was impressive, but the mark he left on his Georgia Highlands team outside the lines is the one that stands out most to his coach.
“The physical stuff is really secondary,” said O’Neill. “Nick is the kind of young man I hope my sons grow up to be like. He is an excellent student who is intelligent and mature, and he is a natural leader who leads by example and challenges his teammates to keep up.”
That’s just the kind of heart you want taking care of you when you’re in need.