PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — When the Detroit Tigers’ second-round draft pick Nick Quintana got off his plane to play with the Gulf Coast League Tigers West team, a van was ready to pick him up.
As he opened the door, he saw four players already seated inside. He was the last to be picked up from the airport in Lakeland, Florida.
He looked around at the others’ faces, not sure if he knew anyone. His eyes stopped on the Tigers’ third-round draft pick, Andre Lipcius. He seemed familiar.
“I said, ‘Wow, I’ve seen you before from somewhere,’” Quintana recalled. “We played against each other in the Cape Cod League last summer. Then we started to getting to talking and learning more about each other.”
Just a little over a week later, the two 21-year-olds are still playing on the same infield. Only this time, it’s in West Michigan.
Both Lipcius and Quintana were called up to the Whitecaps at the same time and are both playing as starters. Quintana is at third base and Lipcius is playing second base with a little bit of shortstop mixed in.
“We just bonded,” Lipcius said. “We’re the same type of person in some ways but he is a lot more quiet than I am. We still work out with each other and go to breakfast and stuff like that.
“We got lucky enough to make it here already and we’re along for the ride together.”
Whitecaps manager Lance Parrish said it was just a summer ago when Kody Clemens emerged as a spark for the team in the middle of the season. He believes both Quintana and Lipcius have the same ability, which means they won’t be around long.
“I obviously don’t pull the strings in this organization or know what is going on, but I would hope we can keep them for as long as possible,” Parrish said. “Our job is just to develop them and move them up the ladder.”
Quintana is known for his power hitting, though his size doesn’t fit the usual script for players at the hot corner. The 5-foot-10, 187-pound athlete hit 15 home runs and 77 RBIs in his junior season with Arizona. The Las Vegas native hit for a batting average of .342 with an OPS of 1.088 while scoring 56 runs in 56 games.
“(Quintana’s) not a big guy, but he packs a big punch,” Parrish said. “He can generate some bat speed, obviously with his first home run last night, but he’s been driving the ball well since he’s been here.”
The homer Parrish mentioned was Quintana’s first at the professional level. It gave the Whitecaps a 2-1 lead and would eventually be the game-winning run in a 3-1 victory over the Dayton Dragons Tuesday night. Quintana also hit an RBI single in the 8th inning.
A fan for whom Quintana signed an autograph before the game tracked down the home run ball. After the game, he waited outside of the dugout to tell the new Whitecaps third baseman. It was late at night when the game ended and when Quintana came out to talk with the fan, he had a request.
“He said, ‘If you break a bat, can I be the first one to have it?’” Quintana said with a smile. “I said, ‘Sure, you tracked down my ball.’ It was special.”
Lipcius is a power hitter himself. At Tennessee, he hit a team-high 17 homers while driving in 58 runs and maintaining a batting average of .308.
For his swing, Lipcius is trying to hit the ball hard and consistently. As for his fielding game, he wants to show he can play anywhere on the infield for whatever the Tigers organization needs the most.
He played a lot of third base with the Vols with occasional shortstop appearances. Now he’s mainly playing second base for the Whitecaps.
“When you’re trying to move up in the system, being versatile to play any position is an important thing,” Lipcius said. “(Detroit) knew I work on my defense and they can form me into anything they want to.”
Regardless of where Lipcius finds himself on the infield for the Whitecaps, he knows for now he can look to his left and see a new teammate and friend.
That’s where Quintana will be posted. Whether the two move up or down together from here, he’s happy he can look back and enjoy playing with Lipcius right now.
“The friendships that you build right now look past (moving up or down),” Quintana said. “I think moving forward we will have a good relationship.”