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Nate Monastra: Musketeer on the Rise

Junior catcher has high expectations going into the 2019 season.

Banners on the Parkway continues its player profile interviews from the 2019 Xavier Musketeer baseball squad. Next up, junior starting catcher from Lewis Center Ohio, Nate Monastra.

Before attending Xavier University, Monastra attended Olentangy High School in Lewis Center Ohio and was a member of the 2016 graduating class. While in high school, Monastra excelled in academics as well as baseball. He was a National Honor Society member and hit .456 with 28 RBI’s for the Braves his senior year. He also earned OCC (Ohio Capital Conference) Player of the Year honors and was named First Team All-OCC in both his junior and senior year. Not surprisingly, Perfect Game ranked Monastra in the top five for high school catchers in the state of Ohio. The talent rich class of catchers that year included the number one ranked baseball player in the state, Lebanon’s Tyler Duvall, currently playing at Vanderbilt University.

The Monastra Family, Sam, Michelle, Joe and Nate seated. National signing day, Olentangy High.

In the Fall of 2016, Monastra headed two hours south down route 71 to Xavier University to begin his collegiate career. As a freshman playing for the Big East Champion and NCAA regional Musketeers, Monastra appeared in 37 games including 21 starts primarily at first base and catcher. While hitting .207 Monastra gained valuable experience playing behind junior Nate Soria who currently plays in the Rays organization.

Monastra took a big step forward his sophomore year. His batting average jumped to .280, 4th on the team; his slugging percentage was .476, 5th on the team including five home runs and he sported a very impressive OPS of .824. This offensive production from a catcher isn’t something you normally expect. Defensively, Monastra excelled as well, throwing out eleven of eighteen base runners, while committing only two errors. He currently sports an impressive “pop time” of 1.83.

We caught up with the 6’2”, 200 lb. junior to get his thoughts on the upcoming season, his recruitment by former Xavier catcher, coach Billy O’Conner and his aspirations post-graduation.

Banners on the Parkway: Nate, thanks again for taking time to answer some questions for us today. I realize they keep you pretty busy between baseball and school. I always like to ask, what other sports you played growing up as it seems like Coach O’Conner and his staff like to recruit multi-sport athletes. My sources tell me you are a pretty good basketball player. Did you play anything besides baseball growing up?

Monastra: I played basketball in Middle School, but then I realized that I was better at baseball. If I wanted to be really good at one sport then I would need to stick with baseball because I didn't see much of a future with basketball.

Banners on the Parkway: I saw that the baseball team recently played in a two-on-two “XU Base 42” players tournament and you made it to the semi-finals. So you must have some game?

Monastra: Coach O’Conner, my tournament teammate carried me on that one. He’s really, really, good and made like every shot.

Banners on the Parkway: Who is the best basketball player on the baseball team?

Monastra: I would say Altenberger.

Banners on the Parkway: Nice, last question and then we will get to some baseball; Who talks the most trash playing basketball?

Monastra: I got to say Givi (Chris Givin), I don’t know if that is just with me or with everyone, but we mess around a lot.

Banners on the Parkway: Nate, you had a terrific baseball career at Olentangy High School and I’m sure it’s nice for your friends and family to be able to hop in the car and drive a couple of hours to come watch you play. Were you recruited by any other school in Ohio or the Midwest? And what was the recruiting process like for you before deciding on Xavier?

Monastra: Yeah, I was recruited by a few other Ohio schools; Miami of Ohio, Cincinnati, Ohio University, and Wright State. Those were most of the schools that I was considering. Xavier was the last school that I visited, but as soon as I saw it, I honestly fell in love. I really liked Billy (Coach O’Conner) and I already knew it would be a good spot for me baseball wise. As soon as I saw the campus, I knew that was where I wanted to go.

Banners on the Parkway: How is it playing for a manager, Billy O’Conner, who had a very successful catching career in his own right at Xavier? Is there a little added pressure on you at that position?

Monastra: I wouldn't say there is added pressure because he is such a good catching coach. He really cares. I think that he provides us with enough training that we can go out there and be confident in our abilities. He’s been a really good mentor for me.

Banners on the Parkway: You had a break out season last year Nate, both at the plate and behind the dish. Was there anything that you did, or adjustments that you made, to see such improvement in your game from your freshman to sophomore year?

Monastra: I would say that being around the program for a year helped. I was more relaxed and more comfortable with how I played. I would also say that Conor (Grammes) helped me a lot. He is our best hitter, in my opinion. So I would often hit with him so I could learn as much as I could from him. After watching his approach and how he swings, I really tried to not emulate him, but to try and pick up the things he thought might work for my (hitting) approach.

Nate Monastra and Conor Grammes, Xavier Musketeers 2017 Big East Tournament Champions

Banners on the Parkway: A lot of fans don’t realize that after playing an entire D1 season from mid February through the end of May or later, while playing some 60+ games, it is not unusual for players to then turn around and play another 40-50 plus games in one of the many summer collegiate leagues scattered around the country. After appearing in 47 games last year at Xavier, you then played last summer in the Coastal Plain League for the Fayettville SwampDogs. While there, you played in another 33 games, hit .305 with 18 RBI’s and stole 5 bases for good measure. You did all of this while playing one of the more demanding positions in baseball: catcher. How did you hold up physically? And how was the overall summer experience for you?

Monastra: It was definitely a little strenuous on the body after I caught that many games for Xavier, especially comparing it to my freshman year when I only caught 5 or 10 games. But it was great to get some reps and meet some new people. I definitely enjoyed my time in North Carolina. The baseball there was really good and I think it helped me develop my approach at the plate and improve defensively.

Banners on the Parkway: What are your team and personal goals for the upcoming season?

Monastra: The expectations are high for this team. We definitely want to win the Big East regular season, the Big East Tournament and, my goal since I got here, to win the first regional (NCAA Tournament) in Xavier history and advance to a Super Regional. I think that would be our biggest team goal. I think if there is going to be a year we make it, it’s going to be this year. We really have an experienced team with a lot of great players.

As far as personal goals, I would like to win first team Big East. I would also like to get my past balls down so I can help our pitching staff as much as I can. I want to keep controlling the running game; I just want to make it as easy as possible for our pitching staff.

Nate Monastra, Fayetteville Swamp Dogs, 2018

Banners on the Parkway: This is your 3rd year playing playing Division 1 baseball Nate, can you take us through what a typical day is like for you during the season and how you manage your time to be successful, both on the diamond and in the classroom?

Monastra: It depends on the day. If it was a Tuesday, without a mid-week game, I would wake up and lift from 8-9am. I would probably have class from 10-1pm, practice from 2-5 pm and then put in 2-3 hours of homework after practice.

Banners on the Parkway: That’s a full day. What are you studying?

Monastra: I’m a finance major with an accounting minor.

Banners on the Parkway: What do you like doing when you are not playing baseball?

Monastra: I honestly just like hanging out with my friends. I like playing ping pong and hanging out at the house with all the guys.

Banners on the Parkway: Who was the biggest influence on you growing up when it came to baseball?

Monastra: Definitely my Dad. He was always there. He trained with me and helped me get better. He always built my confidence, telling me he believes in me which always helps when times aren't going well and I’m in a slump or something. I would definitely say my Dad has helped me the most through out my baseball career.

Banners on the Parkway: What are your plans after your collegiate baseball career ends, I know you are eligible to be drafted this year.

Monastra: I would definitely like to have a good enough season to get drafted. Obviously I have to perform this season and see what happens. My first goal is to win the Big East and achieve personal goals here at Xavier, but if I get the opportunity at the next level, that would be awesome. After college, I don’t really know, but something in finance. I’d like to move to a big city, like Boston, and see what that’s like.

Banners on the Parkway: Nate, that was great. Thank you so much for sharing some of your time with us today. Best of luck next spring and we look forward to watching the Musketeers in 2019.