Baseball: Competitive? Talented? That’s the Slammers’ Nick Akins
By Tim Tierney For Sun-Times Media August 20, 2013 9:22PM
Nick Akins, of the Slammers. | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 22, 2013 6:30AM
When Nick Akins gets all of a fastball or a hanging off-speed pitch, the baseball explodes off his bat and rockets over the outfield wall.
The Joliet Slammers slugger has displayed enough of that power to rank among the Frontier League’s top longball hitters with 17 homers going into Tuesday night’s game against the Frontier Greys.
In addition to flexing his home run prowess, Akins isn’t bashful about expressing himself on the field, whether it’s a good situation or bad. The 25-year-old native of South Central Los Angeles doesn’t apologize for his emotional behavior between the lines.
“You should have fun and show passion and emotion,’’ Akins said. “Sometimes I do let it spill over in the wrong places. But I’m not perfect. I try to control it.
“But it is a game. Everybody has their own take on it, but I’m not going to be able to play forever. So I figure while I’m doing it I might as well have fun as long as I’m not disrespecting anybody.’’
That was an issue for the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Akins when he was tossed from the July 29 game at River City and served a two-game suspension.
While Mike Breyman admits to being “a little” worried about Akins’ emotions on the field, the Slammers manager admires the way Joliet’s demonstrative slugger actually plays the game.
“It’s not like he’s trying to show a guy up,’’ Breyman said. “He is very competitive. When he steps across that line, he’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever seen.
“There’s a couple of things we would have liked not to have happened, but he’s a competitor. I’d rather have a guy like that and really be competitive and not, ‘Oh, well, I just struck out.’ ’’
Akins was in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization for four seasons. He was released by the Dodgers in March and briefly played for Fargo in the American Association.
He wound up in the Frontier League with the Washington Wild Things, but that relationship didn’t last long.
“They said some pretty negative stuff about me. They tried to attack my character,’’ Akins said. “It was one thing for them to say I just wasn’t playing well and let me go. But when I got here, I heard they were accusing me of stuff I didn’t do.
“I can’t control what comes out of peoples’ mouths. I know what kind of person I am. My teammates know what kind of person I am. I found a home.’’
According to Breyman, that’s true on the field and off it.
“Obviously, the numbers are the biggest thing you see out of him, but he’s a big-time leader in our clubhouse,’’ Breyman said. “He’s pulling these guys along. He’s great for the younger guys.
“He’s been one of my favorite guys I’ve ever been around. He’s very, very smart baseball-wise.’’
Akins played shortstop in high school and was switched to the outfield in his first year in the Dodgers’ organization.
“I had to work, just like guys who’ve been playing there their whole life,’’ Akins said. “I wasn’t going to come in there my first year and be great at it. I’m still learning and getting better.’’
That also applies to his power numbers.
“I’ve always had the ability to drive the ball,’’ Akins said. “The more work I put in, the more prevalent it became.’’
Akins has a specific goal in mind as he works to add to his statistics during the final weeks of the season.
“I want to hit 20-plus home runs,’’ he said. “I’ve still got to do that.’’