By Emily Waldon
Step into the West Michigan Whitecaps clubhouse on Game Day and you’re certain to find a colorful variety of superstitious rituals and an occasional game of cards to help pass the time before taking the field.
While every player finds his own way of dealing with the nerves, you’ll be hard pressed to witness any inclination of stress in the demeanor of 6-foot-4 first baseman, Dominic Ficociello. The calm, cool persona of the lanky infielder often settles in with something as simple as listening to Stevie Wonder classics, all the while displaying no sign of being effected by the pressure.
Some may call it overly confident, but to the Fullerton, Calif., native, he’s just doing what he knows and has developed a resume to prove he is doing it exceptionally well. The oldest son to Gary and Debbie Ficociello is just another example of “California Swag” at its finest, embodying a lifestyle engrained in the locals from birth.
The cultivation of his switch-hitting ability can be credited to the ingenuity of his father coming in the form of a wiffle ball and a string.
The makeshift batting cage was constructed very early on and a young Ficociello was left to swing at his leisure. The naturally born right hander eventually grew curious and began trying his luck swinging left handed, quickly discovering how easily it came to him.
A combination of intellect and athleticism led to a memorable career at Fullerton High School as an honor student and also being named as a four-year starter for both the baseball and football programs.
The dominate performance of Ficociello during his time at Fullerton was difficult to ignore and the Detroit Tigers quickly took notice. Ficociello was selected in the 23rd round of the 2010 amateur draft, but chose to bypass by agreeing to attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville to study under the renowned tutelage of coach Dave Van Horn and his staff.
Van Horn liked what he saw in the freshman standout.
“He came in and he didn’t act like a lot of the freshmen,” Van Horn said. “One reason he played all the time was because he was very confident. He knew what he wanted to do and that was to play right away and not just hang out. He had a little bit of swag about him and us as coaches, that’s what we wanna see from freshmen is confidence.”
The development by Van Horn and the Arkansas baseball program combined with the competitive determination of Ficociello would ultimately propel the intriguing switch-hitter back on the Detroit Tigers radar and into the 12th round slot of the 2013 draft.
As the success of Ficociello’s career continues to build in West Michigan, the quick wrists and smooth swing of the big right hander are showing the wiffle ball investment will not soon be forgotten.
“My Dad hasn’t let me down and hasn’t loosened the reigns very much as far as constantly checking in on me, giving me input on what he thinks, especially when I’m going through some struggles,” Ficociello said. “As long as I’m playing this game, he’s going to be my number one supporter and he’s not going to let me slack off. He’s been my biggest role model and my biggest influence and I’m sure that’s not going to change as long as I’m playing this game.”
Thanks to that influence, Ficociello knows that no matter the outcome of his career, he has no doubt that he will be around the game he loves for a very long time.
Emily Waldon was raised in Howard City and currently resides in Wyoming, Mich. A lifelong sports enthusiast, she also enjoys photography, traveling and bringing a fresh outlook to the world of athletics, both collegiate and professional. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.