The Miami Dade College baseball team is attempting to build on last year’s 34-win season that saw them go 20-8 in the Southern Conference.
Although the Sharks finished their season on a sour note in Lakeland, Florida, losing to Palm Beach State College 6-1 at the Florida College Systems Activities Association State Tournament, they had a lot to celebrate.
After losing six of their first nine games, they only lost 11 more times the rest of the way.
“It felt good. They just kept battling. They weren’t stacked with talent but they didn’t have any quit in them,” head baseball coach Danny Price said. “You knew they were gonna play hard. You know that they were gonna give all they had for each other.”
The Sharks coaching staff and its returning sophomores hope to use the lessons they learned last year and apply it to the upcoming season.
“Last year we weren’t known to have a talent-loaded team but we had the heart to win,” said sophomore center fielder Brian Rey. “With this year’s team there is a ton of talent and if we combine that with the will to win then we have a chance to be very good.”
Rey made First-Team Florida College Athletic Association All-State and led the team in home runs (6), batting average (.404) and slugging percentage (.603) last season.
“I worked hard for it and the success of my team made it easier to perform out there,” Rey said.
One of the main goals of the coaching staff is to teach this talent-laden group that team comes before the individual player.
“My job as a coach is to get this group to buy into the team concept—to build the family. Everybody holds everybody accountable,” Price said. “It’s more than championships, it’s about life skills. We all want to win. But, at the same time, it’s about doing things the right way. If you’re a team, you’re a team. If you’re family, you’re family.”
One recruit expected to bolster the Sharks is sophomore closer Garrett Bye, a transfer from the University of South Florida.
“From Price and [pitching coach Kevin] Long, I’ve really learned to focus on details and appreciate the importance of the little things that can accumulate to make big differences,” Bye said. “From the team I’ve learned how to have fun playing baseball again, they bring so much energy and passion and it’s completely boosted my own love for the game.”
Another recruit expected to be a big part of the team is freshman starting pitcher Yusniel Padron-Artiles, who is from Havana, Cuba.
“The pitching staff is very good, many of our pitchers reaching 90 mph and higher with very good complimentary pitches,” Artiles said. “I think it will be one of the strongest parts of the team for this season.”
With a good mix of returning sophomores, transfers and freshmen, the Sharks think they are well-positioned to succeed.
“We really have a good team this year. But things are not going to be easy just because we have a good team,” said sophomore shortstop Jose Rojas. “The dedication and discipline to the game is what will take us. I would say that if the team is dedicated to what it has to do, big things are going to happen.”
The Sharks’ next game will be at home versus Keiser University JV on Jan. 31 at 2 p.m.