ORONO — You want to ask Nick Silva the question, and he expects it.

But you have to ask, because Silva is not going to introduce the subject.

Silva, 20, is one of five players from Miami on the University of Maine baseball team. But we’ll talk geography later. First, the question:

What’s it like to be A-Rod’s nephew?

“It’s definitely a really cool thing,” said Silva, a sophomore pitcher for Maine, which opens its America East Conference schedule – and play its first home games – this weekend against UMass-Lowell. Silva (1-1) is scheduled to start Sunday.

And no, Alex Rodriguez is not expected to be among the spectators.

But Rodriguez has been a mentor to Silva. They’ve worked out together and, back in 2010, Silva enjoyed a memorable summer vacation.

“I traveled with him all summer – hung around with him in the clubhouse. One of the best summers of my life,” Silva said.

Maine sophomore right-hander Nick Silva has already been named America East Pitcher of the Week twice this season. UMaine photo

“He’s always been a big part of my life.”

Rodriguez, who retired last season, is one of the greatest players of all time – and one of the most controversial after his season-long suspension in 2014 for using performance enhancing drugs.

Silva hears plenty of comments about Rodriguez, the good and the bad.

“I respect it. Everyone has the right to their own opinion,” Silva said. “I don’t take it personally.”

Silva points out that others don’t know Rodriguez like he does. He talks about a caring uncle who spends time with his nephews (including Silva’s cousin, Joe Dunand, an infielder at North Carolina State).

But Silva only talks about Rodriguez when asked. When he came to Orono in the fall of 2015, he was Nick Silva, not you-know-who’s nephew.

Alex Rodriguez, Nick Silva’s uncle, has ‘always been a big part of my life.’

“I don’t think it was mentioned until probably last spring,” said Nick Derba, Maine’s interim head coach. “He’s not ashamed of anything, but he wants to be his own person.”

Rodriguez did not attend when Maine played at the University of Miami on March 14-15, but then again, Silva did not pitch. He was being saved for scheduled conference games three days later against Maryland-Baltimore County which were eventually canceled because of bad weather.

Silva has started five games. After a solid beginning – 0.95 ERA over three starts and two selections as the America East Pitcher of the Week – he has been tagged for 12 runs in his last two starts, including a 15-1 loss at nationally ranked St. John’s last weekend.

“I left some balls in the middle of the plate,” said Silva, who throws a low-90s fastball, slider and split-finger change-up.

THE MIAMI CONNECTION is not new to UMaine. Silva comes from Christopher Columbus High, an all-male Catholic school that has sent other players to Maine.

“We had two former players who came here and they always said great things about (Maine),” said Silva, who is one of three Columbus players on Maine’s current roster.

As for the winters?

“Last year wasn’t too bad,” Silva said. “But this winter was brutal. That blizzard was crazy.”

THIS WEEKEND’S three-game series has been moved to Orono because of poor field conditions in Lowell, which is expected to get heavier snow this weekend than Orono. The teams will play a doubleheader Friday, starting at 2 p.m., and a single game at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Mahaney Diamond.

Maine enters the series with a 6-13 record, having lost seven straight – two apiece to Massachusetts and Miami, and a three-game sweep at St. John’s. The River Hawks are 1-1 in the conference, 10-8 overall.

Derba became Maine’s interim head coach in December when Steve Trimper took the job at Stetson University in Deland, Florida.

“We have a lot of talent,” Derba said.

Catcher Chris Bec, a transfer from Miami-Dade Junior College, leads the team with a .376 average. Danny Casals, a third baseman from Columbus High, is next at .276.

On the mound, Silva (5.16 ERA) and juniors Justin Courtney (4.66) of Bangor and Jonah Normandeau (4.68) of Cumberland have all made five starts. Jeff Gelinas (0.00), a senior from Saco, has three saves in nine appearances.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinThomasPPH