07/25/2019 12:43 PM -
On an Oilmen team where most players have a set position or two that they play, there’s one exception — Frank Napleton.
The La Grange, Illinois native and former St. Rita Mustang has seen himself fall into the de facto utility role for the Oilmen during the 2019 season.
“I think I can play anywhere,” Napleton said. “Or at least I’ll try my best to play anywhere.”
In Napleton’s opinion, a major reason for his varying positions is his ability swinging the bat.
Napleton has put up impressive numbers so far this season for the Oilmen. He has appeared in 21 games, posting a .304 batting average, 10 RBIs and a team-leading three home runs.
“I think if you hit well, they’re going to find a spot for you in the field,” Napleton said.
That statement surely rings true for Napleton this season. With the Oilmen having two great options in Joe Rycerz and Patrick Doran at Napleton’s most comfortable position, first base, head coach Kevin Tyrrell has still found creative ways to get Napleton’s bat in the lineup.
The majority of the time, Oilmen fans have seen Napleton slot into the designated hitter spot. Though, he has also found his way into the lineup at first base, second base, left field and right field as well.
Napleton’s success at the plate this season has been important to him, with it being the main thing he wanted to improve on this season to better prepare himself for his sophomore year of college.
“My approach at the plate is something I really wanted to focus on,” Napleton said. “And I feel as though my swing has come a long way so far this season.”
This isn’t the first time fans of the Midwest Collegiate League have seen Napleton swing the bat well though. Last season, as a member of the Southland Vikings, he saw an array of success at the plate. As a soon-to-be college freshman and in his first season facing college level pitching, he finished with a .330 batting average, 16 RBIs and 17 runs scored.
The success Napleton has seen at the plate may come from a place of comfortability playing in the MCL.
“It’s laid back and everybody’s just here to get better,” Napleton said. “It’s a good atmosphere and you get to know the six teams in the league pretty well.”
After one season with the Southland Vikings, Napleton was eager to join the Oilmen. His choice to transition from the Vikings to the Oilmen came from the desire for a new experience.
“First things first is Oil City Stadium, it’s such a cool stadium,” Napleton said. “And I wanted to experience a new thing and meet a new group of guys because you only play college baseball once.”
Switching teams in the MCL isn’t the only new experience Napleton has had of late. Just last year, he began his college career at Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Florida.
Napleton’s brother, Marty, had played for now Saint Leo head coach, Rick O’Dette, at Saint Joseph’s College. This connection prompted Napleton to get in touch with O’Dette and look for a spot on the Saint Leo team. So far, things have worked out great.
“I love it down there,” Napleton said. “The weather’s awesome and the guys are great.”
Once a three-sport athlete at St. Rita High School, Napleton decided baseball was the best fit for him at the college level, leading to his commitment to Saint Leo University.
“I just like baseball because it’s not as taxing on the body,” Napleton said. “It’s just a good game, the best game ever.”
Although now done with the other two sports, hockey and football, Napleton believes they played a major role in making him the baseball player that he is today.
“Somehow, someway those two sports made me a better baseball player either competitively or mentally,” Napleton said. “Those are both very taxing sports, so my mental toughness probably came from those two.”
Three sports, five positions, and college down in Florida proves that Napleton is always ready for a new experience or challenge. With his ability at the plate and his mental toughness, he’s going to play a key role for the Oilmen if he wants to add another new experience to the list — an MCL Championship.