When Nick Martini was in high school, he dreamed about playing baseball in the Big 12 Conference. To him, it was the top league in the country, and simply being part of it would make him first-rate by association.
But Kansas State's sophomore center fielder never thought beyond that. In all his daydreaming, he never thought about being the league's best player.
That's something he had to experience for himself. At a ceremony on Tuesday in Oklahoma City, he was named the league's co-Player of the Year along with Missouri's Aaron Seene.
"I'm a little bit shocked, just because of all the good players in this league," Martini said in a phone interview. "This isn't something I anticipated. When I got here, I just wanted to try and compete. This is really unbelievable."
Martini is the first Wildcat to receive the honor since Craig Wilson in 1992. Martini also earned All-Big 12 honors along with K-State third baseman Adam Muenster and shortstop Carter Jurica.
The last time three K-State players earned all-conference status was in 1995 with the Big Eight.
Martini said winning both awards was the best individual moment of his K-State career. He won them largely because of his hitting.
The Crystal Lake, Ill., native finished the regular season with a Big 12-leading .420 batting average, a mark that ranks seventh in Big 12 history and third in K-State history. Heading into this week's conference tournament, Martini also tops the league in on-base percentage at .512, and
is tied for second in triples with four.
His breakout season came a year after he hit .324 and earned honorable mention All-Big 12 accolades as a freshman.
Martini credits his improvement with learning to be a more patient hitter.
"Last year as a freshman in the middle of the lineup, I wasn't patient and I chased a lot of pitches I shouldn't have," Martini said. "I wasn't patient. This year I was, and I was a much better hitter."