Federal Way High School alumni Nick Tanielu is basking in one of the longer baseball careers of any player who graduated from a local high school.
Once a recent trip back to his former stomping grounds, the 30-year-old third baseman spoke about his excitement for the ever-changing city and the athletes its producing.
Tanielu was born and raised in Alabama, but moved to Federal Way when he was 15 years old during the spring semester of his freshman year. Since then, Tanielu said he feels like Federal Way is his home.
“I felt like Federal Way has made me stronger. I will always hold Federal Way close. I love Federal Way for helping me become a man,” Tanielu said.
Tanielu was recently in town playing for the Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Round Rock was locked in a six game series with the Mariners Triple-A affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers.
This was not the first time Tanielu played in Tacoma this season as Round Rock had visited the Rainiers for three days in June. On that visit, the quick trip wasn’t enough to let Tanielu feel like he was back home.
“I had just returned from having my second kid, and everything was moving really quick. But I got to see a little family here and there,” Tanielu said. This time with a six-game series, Tanielu slowed things down and was able to show off Federal Way to his teammates.
“I took a couple guys down to the typical spots. I showed them the Redondo beach area, and Dash Point,” he said, adding that his teammates were surprised at the beauty of the area. “Washington just has so much to offer.”
Tanielu was drafted in the 14th round of the 2014 MLB Draft after two full seasons at Washington State University (WSU). For him, the draft process didn’t exactly pan out as expected.
After deciding with his dad that it was time to move on from college, he chose the professional route. Tanielu said he was surprised to find that he had fallen deeper into the draft than initially anticipated. But with strong support from his dad family and former WSU head coach Donnie Marbut, Tanielu had a safety net of options if he wanted to rejoin the WSU team the following season.
Then one call changed everything.
“Boom, the Astros called in the 14th round with an offer that was similar to what I was thinking,” he said. “Me and my dad looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Tanielu was drafted as the 406th pick in the 2014 class. Tanielu said he will always remember the support his family had for him as they “were always on board with whatever I wanted to do and I am forever grateful for that opportunity to have them.”
The 2022 season marked Tanielu’s first time as a free agent. After finishing his contract with the San Diego Padres, Tanielu came back to a familiar franchise. In February, he connected with former coach Josh Bonifay, who is director of player development for the Texas Rangers.
“He managed me in my Low-A years with the Astros, so I knew him real well, and we had a good connection. He said, ‘We are going to bring you in and see what you can do,’” Tanielu said.
After this season, Tanielu will have eight professional baseball seasons and more than 700 games under his belt.
With the end of the season looming, Tanielu said he is unsure what his future holds. But the path to clarity from uncertainty arrives day by day.
“It is going to be a big offseason. I have to decide if I want to keep the cleats on or take ‘em off,” he said. “I feel like everyone has that talk one day … I have talked with certain guys about staying in baseball.”
Coaching or scouting in the future also piques Tanielu’s interests for his post-playing career, he added.
Tanielu is one of fourteen players from the city of Federal Way in professional baseball, five of whom are active players. Tanielu said he is a fan of Federal Way producing many young athletes and said he wants kids in the area to believe in themselves.
“There are players from Federal Way in the NBA, NFL, MLB,” he said. “It has definitely been put on the map and I am so glad to see that. And any player I meet or see from Federal Way, I absolutely love it.”