From player to coach, Niko Amory’s hard work and connections translate seamlessly

In his first season as a coach, Niko Amory has made a graceful transition to life in the dugout.|Art or Photo Credit: Sadie Parker

Brewster, Mass. — When Whitecaps pitching coach Brian Del Rosso heard Niko Amory’s name mentioned at a Keystone College golf outing, his mind flashed back to meeting a wide-eyed 12-year-old with a tenacious work ethic.

As a teenager, Amory played travel baseball for the Diamond Jacks out of the Diamond Nation facility in Flemington, New Jersey, just an hour or so from his home in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. Del Rosso just so happened to be the coach of that team.

For Del Rosso, that connection was intriguing. For Amory, it was life-changing.

Amory was finishing up his last season of college ball and enlisted the help of his coach at Marist, Lance Ratchford, in searching for a coaching job after graduation.

When Del Rosso heard that news, he immediately recommended him to Whitecaps manager Jamie Shevchik, who gave Del Rosso the green light to make the hire.

“That’s a slam dunk,” Del Rosso told Shevchik. “He would be great with us, it’d be a perfect fit.”

And so far, he has been a perfect fit, according to both players and coaches. Not that Del Rosso was worried, though.

“You know, there’s not many guys that you know for sure, 100%, are going to be good at what they do,” Del Rosso said, “but Niko’s about as close as you can get to that when bringing in a first-year coach out of college.”

Back in June, in the early days of the 2023 Whitecaps season, Amory introduced himself to the team as a coach for the first time in his life.

“I think just being involved with the league and meeting guys from all different schools, it’s just been awesome,” Amory said.

Del Rosso (right) and Amory have known each other for over 10 years, and Amory says the only thing that’s changed about Del Rosso is “that he’s gotten married.”|Art or Photo Credit: Sadie Parker

Amory is no stranger to the league, either. When he was just seven years old, he and his family began attending games when they summered in Chatham, and attended day camps with the players.

“I didn’t really know anything about it until we got here, and then I realized,” Amory said. “You look at some of the historic names, it’s like, if you want to get to the big leagues, playing somewhere on the Cape is extremely helpful.”

Amory served as the Marist Foxes’ backstop for five seasons and spent time in various summer leagues before hanging up his cleats to become Brewster’s bullpen coach this summer. He never made it to the Cape as a player, but the opportunity of becoming another branch in the Shevchik’s ever-growing coaching tree is nothing to scoff at.

Other Cape League managers, such as Ryan Smyth of Wareham and Scott Landers of Bourne, spent time under Shevchik in Brewster before taking over their own teams. Amory might not be at that point quite yet, but he is making sure to soak everything in.

“It’s been awesome, [Shevchik] kind of took me under his wing right away,” Amory said.

The move has felt somewhat natural for Amory, especially because a team’s catcher often takes on a significant part of leading the other eight fielders.

“As a catcher, you have to lead. Everybody sees you and is looking at you in the field and you got to lead by example and vocally,” Amory said. “As a coach I want to do the same thing…It’s up to the guys ultimately to do the work but you got to kind of give them examples.”

It’s hard to find a time when Amory’s face lacks a smile. He’s stayed positive through the ups and downs of this Whitecaps season.|Art or Photo Credit: Sadie Parker

Whether that’s by putting together scouting reports or lining the field each day, Amory knows he’ll only gain respect and earn trust through his dedication to the process. He also has the unique perspective of only being a few months removed from the same position some of these players are in, which helps Amory relate to his players as a coach.

“He’s kind of like the middleman between the players and the coaches,” Whitecaps reliever and Amory’s former Marist teammate Drake Quinn said. “I think it’s a good spot.”

Quinn and Amory were not just teammates at Marist but close friends too. Almost every time Quinn pitched in college, Amory was behind the dish, calling pitches and keeping his friend’s head in the action.

“Niko’s always been there for me. He’s been one of my really good friends through ups and downs throughout the season,” Quinn said.

Seeing his former battery mate as a coach in the bullpen was initially a little odd for Quinn, considering the two spent an enormous amount of time just 60 feet and six inches away from each other, but if anyone could make the transition from player to coach, Quinn knows Amory is right for the job.

“I definitely didn’t see Niko giving up baseball after his career ended,” Quinn said. “I think he’s gonna take it as far as possible with coaching, [coaching in the Cape is] a good first step.”

The first foray into coaching comes with plenty of benefits but also a number of challenges. Del Rosso, who made the same transition after pitching at Keystone College and in independent leagues, remembered his transition and the difficulties that he didn’t see coming.

“I think it’s just the first year stuff that you don’t really account for with coaching,” he said. “It’s like, all of a sudden you have to hit a fungo on your first day of coaching.”

Even more important is learning what makes players tick and how to best approach certain guys. But after this season, Del Rosso is confident Amory has the ability to adapt to and overcome those challenges, and their relationship has only improved because of that.

“It’s been really cool to coach him, get to know him as a player and then kind of get on the same level with him now as a coach,” Del Rosso said.

For Amory, he has grappled with the idea of being a player again, especially when batting practice gets going and Del Rosso is throwing. It feels like 2012 again, but he knows those days are in the past.

“At some point you gotta know, you got to hang [the cleats] up because I know if I were to go out and take swings I’d miss it that much more,” Amory said.

Instead of looking to the past, Amory has moved on from the playing days and is focused on both the present and the future. This fall, he will return to Marist as an assistant coach and continue his efforts to make a career out of coaching.

For now, all he wants is a Cape League championship.

“Hopefully we can figure some stuff out for the next week-and-a-half, two weeks, and win a championship,” Amory said. “That’s the one thing I don’t have in my career, a ring.”