Athlete of the Week: Coen Niclai named Alaska Baseball’s Gatorade Player of the Year

Published: Jun. 16, 2023 at 8:50 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While the summer baseball season is just heating up, awards are already being doled out in Alaska.

Service High School’s Coen Niclai is fresh off a sizzling high school season and was recognized as the 2023 Gatorade Alaska Baseball Player of the Year.

“It feels great, almost validating,” Niclai said after an Alaska Legion game for Service Post 28, where he blasted a two-run homer over the left field fence.

“But I think I put in some really good work throughout the offseason and I really appreciate everything that I have gotten awarded and everything that has happened so far.”

Niclai batted .326 during his junior season with two home runs, 27 RBI’s, and a 1.098 OPS while leading the Cougars to their first state championship appearance in nearly a decade.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and there are very few guys that are as dedicated in the offseason, and even in the little bit of free time we have this time of the year — he is always working out in the gym, fine-tuning things, just a student of the game, that’s the big thing,” Service head baseball coach Willie Paul said.

But what can’t be measured with numbers or statistics is the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder’s command behind the plate and ability to control the game.

“It is huge, as a coaching staff, if we don’t have to focus on that and we can focus on the other pieces, it makes our job 10 times easier,” Paul added. “We’re able to go out there, have him call the pitches, help set up the defenses, look at little things like that — it just takes a load off our plate.”

Niclai’s leadership and character have translated off the diamond as well, maintaining a 3.63 GPA in the classroom and has volunteered locally on behalf of Service’s peer mentorship program and as a youth baseball coach and umpire.

Niclai credited hard work and dedication to maintaining such strong form in the game of baseball and in the classroom.

“I think the mentality standpoint too — you fail 70% of the time and I think that is also life as well,” Niclai said. “I think just keeping a good strong mentality, you’re almost set for the rest of your life.”

Niclai will continue to play summer ball and attend camps until his senior year this fall. When the time comes, he said he hopes to play college baseball and study the sciences.