CINCINNATI, Ohio – An exciting and challenging weekend of fall ball in Indiana and Ohio for the Great Lake Canadians 18U squad turned into something much more for Owen Diodati, when the 16-year-old catcher committed to Xavier University on Sunday morning just before matching up against his future team.
After taking on Butler University and the University of Dayton, Diodati and his family arrived in Cincinnati early Sunday morning, so the young backstop could take a second tour of the school’s campus and facilities – after also visiting in August – and confirm his decision to commit to the Division-I baseball program that has won the BIG EAST conference in three of the last four years.
“Everything seemed great,” Diodati said. “I like the coaching staff, I really like Billy [O’Conner, head coach of the Musketeers] and I really enjoyed everyone who took me around campus, and hearing what they had to say about the program, and what their goals are.
“From an academic standpoint, being a good student, it’s definitely a really good fit for me. And I mean, it’s a beautiful campus, they have a really nice baseball field, and they have a great team. They went to regionals three of the last four years and had a chance to go to a super regional last year, so it’s definitely a great place to be. They’re going in the right direction.”
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound catcher enjoyed the chance to square off against the team and gain a glimpse of what his future might hold when Xavier – and Great Lake graduate Matt Warkentin – hosted the Canadians at Hayden Field on Sunday afternoon.
“It was definitely cool playing against the team,” Diodati said. “It’s good to see where you’re at. I mean, obviously I have two yeas left before I’m going to be anywhere, and I’m barely 16 now, so it was a great experience. To put the ball on the bat and see a couple of pitchers who can carve you up a little bit, it was good for me.”
Already impressed by what the campus and Musketeers amenities had to offer, the left-handed hitter from Niagara Falls was excited to hear plans for what the school and athletic department have in store for the future, and what changes may greet him upon his impending return to Cincinnati.
“The facilities are unbelievable,” Diodati said. “The campus is obviously beautiful, all the different buildings on campus are great, and obviously this is a pretty unbelievable field from a view standpoint. They also mentioned they’re going to be changing their stands into stadium-style seating in the next couple of years, and they’re building a new recreation centre, so the current recreation centre will end up being a new locker room, and it will have more turf and more training area.”
From his arrival to the Great Lake program after previously putting in time with former major league catcher Chris Robinson, to joining O’Conner at Xavier, Diodati will continue to have strong catching influences around him, with an eye on taking big strides behind the dish.
“He’s got all the tools,” Robinson said. “He’s a big, physical guy, and he’s really athletic for his size. He’s an exciting player. Getting to watch him this weekend [against Butler, Dayton and Xavier], you learn a lot from guys when they’re in over their heads a little bit. You look for little things, and not necessarily the results, and I was really impressed with his presence on the field, the way he caught and controlled the game.
“That was impressive, especially because sometimes that’s the last thing to come. So it’s exciting to see that. Some of the technical stuff will fall into place once he’s got two years in the program, and he’ll be ready to go. Xavier is a great fit for him, as a catching guy sending him to another catching guy [in O’Conner], I know that he’s going to continue developing, and that’s huge. For Owen to be able to find that marriage is pretty exciting.”
Robinson isn’t the only one looking forward to the relationships Diodati will build and maintain as he moves forward.
“I’m excited to work with Billy,” Diodati said. “Coming to the Great Lake Canadians this year, the main factor was for Chris. I’ve worked with him since I was 13 years old and everything we’ve done has been great and he’s helped me improve my game a lot already. Since I’ve been here full-time, I’ve had coaches tell me that my game’s improved a ton from a catching standpoint.
“From a hitting standpoint, I’ve always kind of been there, being a big left-handed hitter, but catching was definitely where my game needed the most improvement, and I’ve already seen improvement in the three months I’ve been here. There’s no telling what time with him could do in the next two years.”
Off the field, Diodati is most excited for the offerings the school holds academically, looking to get on the track to medical school, with a vested interest in business.
“The academic programs here were definitely a big factor for me, and especially my family,” he said. “My parents [Jody and Ryan] didn’t want me going anywhere where the education wasn’t second to none, and everything that I’ve researched and everything about this program says that it’s going to be a good fit for me. It’s a really good academic school, and they were telling me that their pre-med program has a high percentage acceptance rate into medical school, which is big for me and definitely something I’m interested in.”
Outside of the classroom, Diodati is looking forward to sharing the ultimate goal that all college baseball players have – getting on the road to Omaha.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to win here,” the young player said. “I know while I’m here I’m going to have a good chance to win BIG EAST conference championships, go to regionals, hopefully super regionals, and hopefully the College World Series. That’s definitely a goal of mine, and I think Coach Billy and I are on the same page with that. We have a lot of the same goals, and our work ethics are pretty similar, so I’m really excited about the opportunity.”
Though the final decision didn’t happen quickly or easily, Diodati is confident and happy in the choice that he has made.
“This is four years of my future,” he said. “With all the offers on the table, you don’t want to rush the decision, you don’t want to make the decision based off of impulse or emotions, and after I weighed in everything, I knew this was where I wanted to be, and I’m really excited that this is where I’m at.”