A passion for the game
Love of baseball drives Moniak’s dream of making it to ‘The Show’
Mickey Moniak enjoyed playing touch and tackle football. He was up for going to local California gyms for pickup basketball.
His heart — and as many weekends as possible — however, were filled by baseball.
“For me, I was always dragging my dad [Matt] to go play tournaments every weekend,” Moniak said. “I always wanted to be on the best team, play for competitive teams who played every weekend.
“In California, you could play baseball year round. I enjoyed messing around, but there wasn’t a lot of time for other sports.”
Moniak’s passion for baseball took him this summer to ballparks throughout Double-A’s Eastern League, and his father was rewarded for his support by finally seeing his 21-year-old son hit a home run in person — a game-winner Aug. 28 at Reading’s FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Phillies 2016 first-round pick now hounds Reading hitting coach Tyler Henson in an effort to fulfill his lifelong dream of helping the team that drafted him win a World Series.
“He shows up every day just to play, get better,” Henson said. “He’s the first one in the cage every day. He comes in and gets me, asking ‘are you ready to go?’ ”
Moniak is blossoming in his fourth season of pro ball. In 119 regular-season games with Reading, the left handed-hitting outfielder set career highs in triples (13, which led the EL), home runs (11), RBIs (67), stolen bases (15) and walks (33).
The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder survived a rough 20-game start to his Double-A career (.195 batting average with 25 strikeouts) to put together a steady stretch throughout the summer before
admittedly wearing down a bit late in the season.
Through it all, however, Moniak has been a good teammate, a hard worker and loved every minute of the ebbs and flows of a professional baseball season.
“He’s continued to put together quality at-bats,” Henson said. “The biggest thing for me is that he puts together four quality at-bats a night and whatever happens, happens.
“He’s bought into that mentality.”
Moniak walked into professional baseball as a clean-cut 18-year-old burdened with being the first overall pick.
Expectations were outrageous. Phillies fans wanted the next Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Joe Mauer or Carlos Correa. They wanted to see him in the majors by the time he was old enough to legally drink.
His progress has been slow, but steady — a new level each of his first four seasons. His maturity to process all that was being said about him has been impressive according to those who have played with him in the minor leagues.
“Mickey has grinded every single year,” said Reading teammate Darick Hall, who was drafted in the 14th round in 2016 out of Dallas Baptist University. “He gets a ton of at-bats, a ton of hits. I’ve played with him every year. I’ve seen his on-field performance growing. He handles it all and has gotten better every year.
“To be honest, I don’t think I could have made the adjustment because I wasn’t near the player I was coming out of college when I came out of high school. I played a lot in college, had to learn a lot before I could perform at this level. To do what high school kids have to do, especially at this level, is remarkable.”
The pimples have been replaced by a tattoo or two, but little else about Moniak has changed.
He’s never has made excuses for anything he’s done — or not done — as a professional. His passion and work ethic also have not wavered.
And, his support system is the same. His family and friends are just as important to him now as they were when he left La Costa Canyon (California) High School.
“After being away in high school, playing for Team USA, playing in different countries,” he said, “[pro ball] was nothing new to me. Living on my own, I’ve always had that comfort level. That’s not been the hard part.
“Playing every day, getting tired, the [people] to talk to would be parents, friends, family back home. I’m blessed to have them in my life. They’ve always been a good support system for me. They’ve always supported me whether I’m batting 1.000 for the week or not getting hit for a month.”
Moniak finds comfort in his teammates who share similar skills and the same desire to win every time they step on a baseball field.
He also finds solace in knowing timely words of support and understanding are only a phone call, Facetime or a text message away.
The California native’s love for the sport blossomed more than a decade ago, with a father offering his unwavering encouragement for whatever his son wanted in life.
“He was never that dad who pushed me into something I didn’t want to do,” Moniak said. “I could have gotten drafted first overall and told him I wanted to quit, and he would have been, ‘All right, fine.’
“That’s kind of dad I have. I’ve grown up trying to emulate him and he’s always been my hero. Definitely having him here watching me play pro ball, fulfill my dreams, the whole process has been unbelievable.”
Mickey Moniak, the top overall pick by the Phillies in the 2016 MLB draft, set career highs this season in triples, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases and walks for Double-A Reading.