Damiano Palmegiani is back with a vengeance.
The Venezuelan-born, Canadian-raised slugger has endured a difficult baseball roller-coaster over the last few years that he admits have amounted to some of the highest highs and lowest lows.
He’s back on top of the world again though, thanks to his video game-like performance with the College of Southern Nevada.
In 55 games, Palmegiani is sporting a .401 batting average with 21 home runs, 68 runs batted in and 13 stolen bases. He was also recently named the Male Athlete of the Year at the Fifth Annual Coyote Athletic Banquet.
People outside of the school are taking notice as well. The hard-hitting sophomore is ranked third amongst his fellow draft-eligible countrymen by Canadian Baseball Network and has been invited to take part in the MLB Draft League this summer. If his professional aspirations don’t pan out this time around, Palmegiani has committed to the powerhouse University of Arizona.
“I just wanted to show what I could do when everything is figured out,” Palmegiani told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast. “I want to show everyone, and myself mostly, that player is there. I’m really just getting started now.”
JET SET START
Palmegiani has been a highly-touted prospect for a long time.
After starting his baseball journey in Surrey, B.C., he made the trek west to Vauxhall Academy of Baseball when he and his best friend had caught their attention.
“It was a no-brainer,” he smiled. “I jumped at it because my life was already all about baseball to that point. To be able to play at Vauxhall where it was just baseball and school, I couldn’t pass it up.”
From big wins with the Jets to taking part in the Tournament-12 in Toronto and eventually making it to Baseball Canada’s Junior National Team, success kept coming for Palmegiani.
The achievements continued in the summer of 2018 when he was taken in the 35th round of the MLB Draft by his favourite team, the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I definitely let myself enjoy those moments,” Palmegiani said. “I’m not really the type of person who just brushes it off as another day at the office. Obviously, I’m going to get to work and I’m not going to stand there and do nothing. But I am going to enjoy the moment for what it is.”
Unbeknownst to him, some challenges were waiting for him as he started his life after high school.
NOTHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT
To get in some at-bats, Palmegiani spent part of that summer with the Lethbridge Bulls, where he hit just .125 with three RBIs in 13 games.
It was a chance for him to see some college-level pitching, as he was set to join California State University-Northridge in the fall.
However, he struggled in his first season, hitting .157 with two RBIs in 31 games.
“At the time, I wasn’t really adjusting to making adjustments,” Palmegiani admitted. “I wasn’t handling failure too great and I was expecting way too much out of myself.”
He had a little more success during the summer of 2019, as he hit .190 with five home runs and 20 RBIs for Port Angeles of the West Coast League.
Heading into the next college season, he thought things were looking up.
“I felt like it would be the year I broke out, as we had a new coaching staff at Northridge, but I just felt like I was in the same place I was in 2019,” he continued. “I just didn’t feel like I was giving as much as I could. It was frustrating.”
GETTING INTO THE ZONE
Not only was 2020 a year where Palmegiani realized he needed a change of scenery, but it also provided him with an opportunity to find himself again as a baseball player.
With the COVID-19 pandemic grinding the world to a near-stop, he tried to get inside his head and work on every aspect of the game that he could.
“I really broke things down,” Palmegiani recalled. “It was the first time in a while that I’ve had that much time off. So I really highlighted the different parts of my game that needed to be addressed.”
He has always had quick hands, so he wanted to keep the barrel of the bat through the zone longer, and he wanted to work on his speed and flexibility. He put together a weekly schedule, making sure he was doing something every day to make himself better.
“There were some days where I didn’t really see the light at the end of the tunnel for when I was going to be able to play again,” the CSN product admitted. “But I stayed on top of my swing and on top of my fitness levels, so that when I stepped foot on campus, I felt ready from day one.”
He knew taking time off would mean he could potentially fall behind someone else, resurrecting the work ethic he learned at Vauxhall.
“I didn’t want to be the guy who had to shake off the rust or be the guy who had to ease his way back in,” Palmegiani said. “I wanted to get my feet under me right away and just start producing. I wanted to be the guy who was shining right away.”
THE HIT PARADE
Right out of the gate, that approach worked, as Palmegiani went 2-for-3 with two home runs and five RBI in his first game against Salt Lake Community College.
He’s had three other multi-homer games and was rarely held hitless, pushing his batting average between .350 and .400 for most of the season.
To put an exclamation point on the regular season, Palmegiani again victimized Salt Lake pitchers by going 3-for-3 with two more homers and five more RBI in their finale.
He credits the work ethic he learned at Vauxhall for getting him back to the top of his game.
“That was part of the identity there – no one was going to work harder than us,” Palmegiani said. “It’s just a part of my identity. I could be really good and have a lot of talent, but even if I didn’t, it’s not an excuse for anyone to work harder than me.”
While the Coyotes embark on their Scenic West Athletic Conference playoff run, Palmegiani is also looking forward to what the future might have in store.
“It’s a winning mentality down there,” he said of the University of Arizona. “They call it the ‘MLB Training Ground.’ There’s a tradition of developing players and getting them ready for the next level. I want that competition because I think it will bring out the best version of me.”
He calls it the “perfect place” for him, should MLB teams not come calling in this summer’s draft. He also has his eyes on the MLB Draft League.
“Not only is it a great opportunity, but it’s just some more baseball and some more good baseball to play in some old minor league diamonds,” he smiled. “Whatever happens, happens, but I’m going to enjoy the experience.”
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound infielder is glowing. In his eyes, the sky is the limit, and he knows his destiny is in his hands. When asked about his advice for young players, he’s able to draw from his own journey and experience.
“Make some clear goals for yourself,” he said. “Write them down, talk about them, just understand that you can have clear, concise goals.”
He also offers some words to live by – words that he has lived himself.
“No bad day is your last day and no good day is going to cause everything you’ve ever wanted and more,” he concluded. “The most important thing, beyond all that, is just enjoy the moment.”
Palmegiani is, without a doubt, enjoying these moments.