After a breakout season in 2003, Erick San Pedro is ready to become one of the nation’s best catchers this season as the Hurricanes begin their quest for a return to Omaha and the College World Series.
San Pedro began last year battling with Greg Dini for the starting catcher job, but his steady improvement offensively and success in throwing runners out won him the position. The Hialeah, Fla. native finished 2003 with a .317 batting average, 43 runs batted (in good for fifth on the team), and 13 doubles.
After being shutout by the Florida Gators on Friday night, the Hurricanes needed a spark during the second game of the series. With the game scoreless in the third inning, San Pedro gave the ‘Canes their first runs of the season with a two-run home run off of Steven Porter. The junior would add a double later on as the Hurricanes finished off the Gators for their first victory of the season.
“[The home run] kind of ignited the team,” Head Coach Jim Morris said. “I guess you could say it got them going. Sometimes that first hit is tough to get if a pitcher has a no-hitter going…We needed to score a run to get it going, and once it happened we did well.”
One of the strengths of this year’s squad is that the entire starting rotation of J.D. Cockroft, Vince Bongiovanni, and Brandon Camardese has returned older and wiser. Over the past couple of years San Pedro has developed a close relationship with each of the hurlers.
“It’s almost like you’re brothers,” San Pedro said. “You know everything about them and they know everything about you. Somehow you have to gain their confidence, whether it’s yelling at them or babying them…little things like that make up the relationship.”
Last season, the ‘Canes advanced to the College World Series before being eliminated in their third game. San Pedro said that the team over achieved last year, and this time around, merely being there will not be satisfying enough for the Hurricanes.
“We were a really young team last year,” he said. “Everyone was saying that we were young and the experience just wasn’t there, but we made it that far, and with our whole team back, not only do we think we should go back, but we should win it.”
San Pedro is expected to contend for All-America honors at his position and the Johnny Bench Award, which is given to the nation’s best catcher. With these types of preseason accolades, San Pedro will most likely earn attention from professional scouts. He said that while it is easy to get caught up in early hype, it is imperative that he focuses only on what the Hurricanes have to do to win.
“The Major Leagues always crosses my mind,” he said. “Scouts come up to you, but you can’t let that get to your head. You have to put the team first because the way you get drafted is by helping your team out.”
San Pedro majors in entrepreneurship and enjoys golfing on the rare occasions that the team doesn’t have practice.
“I like to play golf,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I usually go with Gaby Sanchez on our days off. I like to relax and just hang out.”
As San Pedro’s Miami career has progressed, the catcher has improved every step of the way. If he continues to get better in 2004, the ‘Canes’ chances of a longer stay in Omaha will increase dramatically.
“He has worked very hard and progressed tremendously as a player, and in all phases of the game,” Morris said. “When he left high school he was a good player and now he has the chance to be a great player.”
Eric Kalis can be contacted at email@example.com.