Santiago Espinal is having a strong freshman campaign for the Miami Dade College baseball team.
Espinal, an infielder, has a .431 batting average, with 53 hits, 28 runs and eight stolen bases.
On the defensive side, he leads the team with 10 double plays, and boasts a sterling fielding percentage of .924.
“He’s a team player,” said Miami Dade College head baseball coach, Danny Price. “What you see is what you get. Everyday he works very hard at what he does. He has that ability to just keep going. He’s very good.”
Espinal’s skills and passion for the game can be traced back to Santiago, Dominican Republic where he was born and raised. Baseball is king there. It is a staple of the culture.
His experience was no different. Espinal was capable of playing every position on the baseball diamond when he was five-years-old.
He said his grandfather, also named Santiago Espinal, served as his biggest motivation growing up.
“He always wanted me to play baseball,” Espinal said. “He taught me how to catch, how to play the game and he would always go to my games when I was little.”
In 2004, Espinal’s grandfather passed away. In his honor, Espinal vowed to make it to the Major Leagues someday.
Four years after his grandfather’s death, when Espinal was 12, he moved to the United States with his family to pursue the American Dream.
At first the family lived in Pembroke Pines for a short period before moving to Orlando. In Orlando, Espinal attended Lyman High School where he played baseball for four years. He failed to graduate in Orlando because he struggled with English. In 2014, he moved to New York and graduated from Penn Foster High School.
A year later he came back to Florida and attended Seminole State College in Orlando, to play baseball, but he struggled academically and never played a game for the school.
In the summer of 2015, he played in the Florida League in Orlando and was the league’s MVP, which caught the eye of the coaching staff at MDC.
This past July, they offered him a full scholarship to attend the College.
“The coaching staff and my teammates have been good to me,” Espinal said. “ I’m having a great year and I thank everyone who’s been supporting me.”