Nine years ago, Nick Derba
donned his pinstriped Chatham A's jersey as a player, taking advice from Coach John Schiffner
on how to improve his game. Now, Derba dons the same red, white, and blue Anglers colors, but he now stands aside Schiffner, as a coach.
"There is something about this place, and being a part of this team," Derba said. "The support from the fans and the front office is amazing. There is nothing like it"
Derba is New York born and raised, coming from College Point, New York, and played high school baseball at Archbishop Molloy High School, where he won a city championship in his junior season. As a junior, Derba was an all-Queens pick, and as a senior, he was named to the all-city first team.
He decided to stay close to home to play his college ball at the nearby Manhattan University, where he was a three year co-captain and a two-time All-MAAC first team selection. His best season for Manhattan came in his junior season, when he hit .304 average, with three home runs and 34 RBI.
He now coaches baseball at his alma mater.
While most college players come to the Cape League for one or two years, Derba played for Chatham for three straight years, from 2004-2006. After starting all 51 games as a freshman at Manhattan, Derba hit for a .143 batting average in twelve games played without collecting a home run or RBI in his first season as an infielder for the A's.
Derba returned to Chatham for two more seasons. In 2005, as a catcher for the A's, he hit for a .211 average in 24 games played, adding two home runs and four RBI. In 2006, Derba hit for a .119 average with two home runs and seven RBI in 31 games played.
For Derba, playing in the Cape League was essential to getting him ready for the major leagues.
"When you are playing on the Cape, you're playing with a lot of guys who are going to be top-round picks," Derba said. "You learn familiarity, you learn to overcome struggles, it forces you to interact with the fans, and it teaches you how to deal with responsibilities off the field, and have fun on the field. It really prepares you all around."
During his tenure for the A's, Derba got the chance to play with players like Evan Longoria
(Chatham '05), who is now the all-star third baseman for the Tampa Bay Rays, Andrew Miller
(Chatham '04-05), who now pitches for the Boston Red Sox, and many more who have made it to the MLB.
photo by Eric Adler
Nick Derba (Chatham '04-06) pictured with Matt Rizzotti (Chatham '06).
After knowing Derba for three seasons, Schiffner was most impressed with Derba because of his knowledge of the game.
"He was an outstanding player, and he was like another coach," Schiffner said. "With the combination of Tyler Kincaid (former pitching coach) and him (Derba), our pitching staff was under control."
Derba was drafted in the 30th round by the St. Louis Cardinals, and spent six years in their organization, reaching as high as their AAA affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds.
While Derba is a big fan of Schiffner as a coach, Schiffner is an even bigger fan of Derba as a coach, and believes his time playing on the Cape and in the Cardinals organization will help him prosper.
"He has a chance to be really good as a coach, no matter if he decides to stay in college or go back to the pros," Schiffner said. "When you get the chance to play in this type of situation, and spend six years in a major league organization, you're going to learn some things."
For Derba, coaching the Anglers this season is all about learning, and hopefully teaching someone a thing or two.
"I am hoping to learn, and If I can help someone as well, I would consider it to be a success," Derba said. "I love being around baseball, It's amazing getting a chance to return to my team, and I am going to do anything I can to help the team."
Schiffner is excited to have Derba on the staff, has seen alot of qualities in him that he likes, and is excited for his future as a coach.
"The one word that comes to mind is passion," Schiffner said. "He is a natural coach, he interacts well with the players, and he loves to ask questions. The world is his oyster."