Coming off the most productive season of his collegiate career, Alex Destino is projected to have an even bigger offensive presence with the Gamecocks in 2017.
Destino, who served as designated hitter his freshman season, spent the majority of the 2016 season at first base. But head coach Chad Holbrook is moving Destino to left field or the designated hitter spot so he can focus on hitting this year.
“After sifting through it, I just want him to be comfortable so he can focus all of his attention on swinging the bat,” Holbrook said of Destino in November. “I think I would put too many burdens on Alex if I put him over at first.”
As a sophomore in 2016, the lefty had difficulty fielding at first base, finishing the season with six errors. But he excelled offensively, batting .321 (75-for-234) and hitting a team-high 10 homers and 59 RBIs. He compiled 14 doubles and scored 40 runs, with a .373 on-base percentage.
If Destino can play where he is most comfortable defensively, Holbrook believes the junior's hitting will improve as a result. Destino is expected to join TJ Hopkins (right fielder) and Danny Blair (center fielder) in the starting outfield positions this season.
Per several media organizations’ preseason polls, the Weaverville, North Carolina, native is expected to pick up an array of accolades this season. Perfect Game named Destino to the preseason All-SEC Team and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named him to the preseason All-America second team. He also was named to the preseason All-SEC second team on Feb. 9.
Along with taking on a new position, Destino will be playing with an additional 5 to 10 pounds of muscle, which he said he put on during the offseason.
“I just stayed in the weight room a lot. I worked my upper body a lot this offseason, just trying to get bigger,” Destino said. “I’m just trying to get stronger and like I said earlier, I’m just trying to fulfill my full potential this year.”
In addition to working in the weight room this summer, Destino also put in work with the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod Baseball League. He batted .250 with 27 hits and 15 RBIs in 31 games (108 at bats). Defensively, Destino played in the outfield and finished the summer error-free with 28 putouts.
“That was some of the best talent I’ve ever played against,” Destino said. “Every day you were facing an arm that you’d see in the SEC, so that was definitely something I’m very thankful for. It kind of helped me mature as a person and a player.”
While Destino has put a lot of time into his workouts this offseason, he isn’t just focused on improving his own game. He also wants to become a leader for the younger players on the team.
“It’s good for me to help these younger guys, kind of teach them,” Destino said. “The Carlos Corteses and the Riley Hogans. Guys that are going to get a lot of bats this year. It’s good for them to kind of have someone like a mentor to them."
“One of my big goals this year is to be a very good team leader.”